Canada may soon lead the way in reckless elections

Reporter Jamie Hall of the Edmonton Journal wrote in a recent article titled “Other jurisdictions eyeing Edmonton’s potential foray into Internet voting” (Nov. 25, 2012), that a 17-person focus group voted in favor of Internet voting. Hall did not ask the right questions, and apparently neither did City Clerk Alayne Sinclair, who said she will make a recommendation to council to proceed with Internet voting.

Sinclair, Hall reports, said Sinclair said “While the test showed the technology to be secure, she wanted more public input before advising council of the next steps.”

What test? Internet voting is not secure, and can’t be made secure, because you can’t secure it from the insiders who have physical custody of the server. And even if you could, security isn’t the question. The real question is, “Can Internet voting ever be TRANSPARENT?”

Nowhere in the article is any explanation of how the public can authenticate anything about an Internet voting election. If reporter Hall didn’t think to ask about transparency, and City Clerk Sinclair didn’t bring it up, one wonders if a single “expert” brought in front of the focus group thought to mention it.

“Essentially, these people, who knew nothing about Internet voting three days ago, took time out of their lives to be a part of this and make a contribution to their community,” Hall quotes City Clerk Sinclair as saying.

So a recommendation will be made to do Internet voting based on a focus group who knew nothing about it, with no one asking the ultimate question: Can the public ever verify anything in an Internet election?

The main argument made for Internet voting is a claim that it increases participation. But if, in order to increase participation you remove public right to know, a good question to ask is whether that trade-off is wise, democratic, or even constitutional.

Self-governance, which is the foundation for democratic government, is the test for whether a system meets democratic criteria — not participation percent and not popularity.

An important question to ask is whether a focus group, regardless of how many people are on it, or how enthusiastically they vote for something, can vote away other people’s rights.

The essential parts of the election are: (1) Who can vote [voter list]; (2) Who did vote [poll list] (3) Counting of the vote; and (4) Chain of custody.

Hall reports increases in voter participation with Internet voting, but the truth is that no one but insiders really know how many people actually voted. No warm body accompanies any vote, so the public can’t see who is inserting votes into the pool.

Instead of a sign-in sheet at the polling place, in full view of witnesses and signed by election workers, you are instead provided with a report created by inside parties without any public verification that the voters in it put their own votes in the pool, or that it contains all votes cast into the system.

Hall quotes a source as saying Internet voting “is a hit” but never shows any way that the public can see that the count is real.

Hall never mentions how chain of custody changes, from public view to private hands, with Internet voting. A computer can only do what its administrator tells it to do, and with Internet voting, the public transfers its ability to see the chain of custody to a small set of persons with inside access.

Let’s hope next time the right questions will be asked, lest Canada lead the way not just in Internet voting, but in reckless elections.

In fact, let’s not just hope. Next time Internet voting rears its centralized, opaque, non-democratic head near you — and it will, and soon — ask these questions yourself and make sure local reporters do too.

Here’s the story Jamie Hall wrote in the Edmonton Journal: “Other jurisdictions eyeing Edmonton’s potential foray into Internet
voting” By Jamie Hall, Edmonton Journal November 25, 2012

Originally published at

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