Online voting open to coercion

Online voting open to coercion

(Published 8 Dec 1999 in the BDH as "Online voting open to coercion")

The Herald reported that the Arizona Democratic primaries this year would be held online. ("Arizona Democrats plan first online vote," 12/6) This is not the first time I've heard advocacy for internet voting, but it is the first time I've heard of it being implemented. Let me state unequivocally that this is a bad idea.

The first concern that springs to many people's minds is that of security. What if someone tries to "stuff the ballot box?" What if someone hijacks my identity and steals my vote? Granted, these are definite concerns; but they exist also for pencil-and-paper voting, and in any case, the security concerns seem adequately addressed by those running the vote. However, there are much larger problems with online voting.

Have you ever wondered why it is absolutely required that one enter a private, curtained booth to vote? It's so that nobody can coerce you into voting a certain way. And there's not just the gun-to-the-head coercion either; for instance, someone could say "I'll pay you $1,000 to vote as I say," and then watch you vote---except that with the curtain in the way, they have no guarantees. They could still pay you, but you remain free to vote however you want.

Enter online voting. I can envision all sorts of scary voting-fraud scenarios arising here. "Honey, you and I agreed to vote for Jameson, right? Why don't you come in the living room and vote now?" Or: "You wanted a raise, right? Well, at this company we want you to vote for Ahldorf. Come on into my office and send in your vote." Not to mention the rather more blunt: "If you come into our storefront and vote for Wilsson, we'll pay you $500 on the spot." All of these things are currently impossible, but under an online voting scheme they become not just possible, but frighteningly likely.

If your home district tries to implement any sort of online voting scheme, think carefully about whether you really want to enable this sort of voting fraud; and if not, talk to your representatives as soon as possible. It's your vote at stake.

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Don Blaheta /

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