Monday, November 10, 2008

E-voting on TVO The Agenda November 10, 2008

The Debate: E-Voting: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

Technology and the vote: Why has there been a stubbornly slow adoption of electronic voting?

The Agenda - November 10, 2008

Note: This episode has not yet aired, it will be on television tonight at 8 PM and again at (I think) 11 PM. The video is usually up online a few days after the show airs. I will update this posting with new information when available.

UPDATE: I have created a discussion thread on the "Your Agenda" discussion forum: e-voting. You'll have to create an account there if you want to add your thoughts before or after the show. ENDUPDATE

UPDATE 9 PM: The show has just ended. I thought the debate was good. I also thought it was positive that the debate focused on a much more realistic assessment of evoting in terms of voter engagement and turnout.

If voting was about convenience, you wouldn't have seen people standing in line for hours in the United States. Voting is about citizen engagement. If the citizens find something interesting to engage with, technology can be an enabler. But you don't need online voting for that, you need an online presence for every day other than the election, much as we're seeing already with Barack Obama, who reached out through BarackObama.com (and into many other Internet channels) and is now connecting with Americans through his transition site change.gov

To me this technology argument "young people use technology, so voting should use technology" is ridiculous. Young people aren't stupid. Putting up a Facebook page is not the answer, putting up content that they care about is the answer.

Both of the letters from the MPPs were very well informed.

As well Farhad Manjoo and Darin Barney were both well-informed about the technical issues, and it was great to see Don Lenihan being very clear that it is for the computer security experts to determine whether voting online is secure, not the politicians or corporations.

Marie Bountrogianni was obviously not well-informed about the technical issues, but unfortunately that didn't seem to stop her making incorrect assertions (if we can bank online, why not vote online? um, because they have COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SECURITY REQUIREMENTS).

John Hollins brings a corporate perspective to voting, talking about "serving customers", an approach which to be quite frank, I hate. Voters are not consumers being provided a service, they are citizens engaged in one of the few public activities of our democracy. Voting is not the same as paying a parking fine. (Longtime readers of this blog will know of Mr. Hollins and his boosterism for technology solutions.) In Canada we have very simple elections. You don't need a $3000 touchscreen voting machine with VVPAT paper trail, to record a single vote, so that when there's a problem, you can count the votes on the paper trail. JUST VOTE ON PAPER FIRST.

I will write a follow-up post on citizen engagement vs. e-voting.

Overall I thought it was a good discussion which in the end turned far more on the citizen engagement aspect.

After posting on the Agenda forum I was fortunate to get an email from Sandra Gionas and to have a chance to talk with her on the phone, and she has kindly included substantial quotes from me in her Inside Agenda blog posting Control, Alt, Delete and Vote.

I love the loaded language people use for paper voting: "quaint", "old-fashioned"

or for the lack of technology in Canada's federal elections: "stubbornly slow adoption".


This is what I had to say the last time someone argued that you couldn't stop the wheels of e-voting progress:

Ah yes. The real world. The modern world. The practical, down-to-earth, realistic, Common Sense Revolution world. Paper is obsolete, so old-fashioned, like the Geneva Convention and other inconveniences.


corporate voting bullshit - Paper Vote Canada - November 24, 2006

If paper voting is so obsolete, why is it that, overwhelmingly, the most articulate and forceful campaigners against electronic voting are computer scientists? Are computer scientists generally considered stubbornly slow adopters? Could it be that the actual experts in computer technology know that from the standpoints of security, cost, simplicity and core principles of democracy, electronic voting is just a very bad idea?

You don't believe me?

* Computer Scientists question electronic voting - March 3, 2003
* Computer scientists slam e-voting machines - CNet News - September 27, 2004
* Following issuance of an analysis by four computer scientists who were members of the SERVE Security Peer Review Group, the Pentagon decided to scrap plans for the use of this technology to cast ballots in the 2004 Presidential election.
* Computer scientists weigh in on e-voting - July 20, 2006
* UC Computer Scientists Release Video on How to Hack a Sequoia Touch-Screen Voting Machine - September 9, 2008
* E-Voting Doesn’t Get Computer Scientist’s Vote - October 10, 2008

I could go on listing reports and articles for many pages, but I hope I've made my point.

Not having electronic voting is not stubborn resistance to progress, it's rational opposition to expensive, unnecessary, insecure technology that will undermine the foundations of our democracy.

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