Sunday, September 11, 2016
Briefing note on online voting in Canada
Make It Short
The Canadian government has already been cyberattacked by nation-states, computer security experts warn that online voting is not secure, national security experts warn that online voting is not secure, and online voting won't increase turnout.Here's the evidence:
- Canadian government departments have already been seriously hacked (attacked) by other countries. Departments including the Finance Department, Treasury Board Secretariat and Defence Research and Development Canada (in 2011) and the National Research Council (in 2014) were successfully attacked. These attacks resulted in significant disruption and months worth of technical work in order to recover.
- Canada's Chief Electoral Officer is concerned about "challenges that online voting present for the integrity and secrecy of the vote" and says "caution is needed in moving forward to ensure that Canadians continue to have the same high level of trust in the integrity of elections"
- Internet voting does not appreciably increase turnout, including youth turnout. In general the people who take advantage of voting online are middle-aged voters who would have voted at a polling station anyway. (I realise this may seem counterintuitive, but the evidence shows this again and again, in country after country, including in Canada.)
- The largest US organisation of computer scientists, the ACM, has a consensus recommendation opposing the use of Internet voting: "systems need some means of preserving the ability to audit and/or recount the votes. At the present, paper-based systems provide the best available technology to do this."
- The Australian Parliament, after an extensive inquiry in 2013 specifially about electronic and online voting, with 20 hearings and over 200 submissions, concluded "Australia is not in a position to introduce any large-scale system of electronic voting in the near future without catastrophically compromising our electoral integrity."
- The US Department of Homeland Security recommends against Internet voting: "We believe that online voting, especially online voting in large scale, introduces great risk into the election system by threatening voters’ expectations of confidentiality, accountability and security" says Neil Jenkins, Senior Advisor for Cybersecurity Capabilities and Strategy
- Why Electronic [and Online] Voting is a BAD Idea - an 8 minute video by Tom Scott
- New Brunswick has a reasonably balanced briefing (PDF) available (for its own voting consultation). There are 2 pages on Internet voting; pages 18-19. Vote par Internet - de la page 20 à la page 21 dans « Renforcer la démocratie au Nouveau-Brunswick » (PDF)
I Want To Know More
- Eric Geller has written a comprehensive article about online voting, interviewing many of the experts in the field.
- Andrew Appel has done a 20 minute video explaining the history of voting and the issues with online voting
- J. Alex Halderman has written a comprehensive book chapter (PDF) covering real world security risks with electronic voting and (in section 7.3) Internet voting
- J. Alex Halderman has done a 21 minute video about technical risks associated with Internet voting
- Independent Report on E-voting in Estonia
- Australian Parliamentary Library report from 2012 - e-voting: the promise and the practice, particularly the section International experience with e-voting (this is the kind of report that Canada should have produced, or at least we should have cited this report, along with all of the material I have provided above)