Thursday, August 11, 2011

A bad idea

Parliament unanimously passed the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Bill (No 2) today, making some minor but necessary changes to our electoral administration. During the debate, Labour MP Chris Hipkins argued that we should be looking at introducing electronic voting. On Twitter, he asks for people's thoughts on the issue.

I have just one: is he fucking mad?

The evidence from overseas is overwhelming: electronic voting can't be trusted. The machines are black boxes. The software is proprietary. They may be run by people with partisan interests. And they're hackable (not just in theory - in practice). There's no way for the count to be audited, and no way to tell if the votes entered by voters are actually being recorded, or just sent to the bit bucket.

Electronic voting means putting elections, a vital part of our democratic infrastructure, in the hands of unaccountable, private entities, with poor security and no transparency. We'll basically be relying on their goodwill that they won't fix elections. Oh, and blind faith that they won't leave a yawning security flaw allowing someone else to. As someone who takes democracy seriously, I don't think that's a very good idea.

Paper ballots may be slow. They may be archaic. They may not create business opportunities for private enterprise to sell voting machines to government at inflated prices. But they can be trusted. Any fool can count them, and to make them disappear you have to steal a physical object, not just surreptitiously insert a line of code. And I'll take that over the bright new shiny thing any day of the week.