Is E-Voting a solution? To which problem? Part 2


(this page is part of the Family Guide to Digital Freedom, 2007 edition. Please do read that introduction to know more about the Guide, especially if you mean to comment this page. Thanks)

(the first parter of this chapter is here)

Why banalize voting?

Even ignoring the practical problems, the whole concept of e-voting is quite depressing, really. In our culture, we still place much more importance in signatures on papers than in shiny computer monitors. Most people still look at computers as mere gaming stations, fancy gadgets or, in the best case, super typewriters: not really relevant stuff.

Voting is a privilege and a achievement. Reducing it to an arcade game is dangerous for democracy. It sends the message that voting is just like going to a soda vending machine, that is not important (just what the establishment would like us to think, isn’t it?). When we have to put something on paper, instead, we take it much more seriously. We think about it first. This is how voting should remain.

Is there a solution?

Yes. Do without e-voting, because there is no meaningful reason to adopt it yet. Some activists say that e-voting is a good thing, as long as it is done with software which is Free as in Freedom, software that everybody can check without restrictions. The Open Voting Foundation promotes just the adoption of this way to e-vote worldwide. There is no doubt that, if computers must replace paper in the voting booth, the whole system, both hardware and software, must be as transparent as possible: as far as software is concerned, Free Software would be the only way to go for e-voting.

This said, promoting e-voting just because it can be done with Free Software continues to not make sense. If the software running the system were open it would still not solve any of the problems listed above, or give citizens any meaningful advantage.

In the real world, having the source code of a voting machine would change nothing at all at the voting booth. 99% of voters would not know what to do with it anyway, and what should the rest do? Block everybody else in the line for 30 minutes, while he or she checks the source code in the machine against the copy in his or her pocket? Or disassemble the machine to check that it was not modified to hide that it runs the wrong software? Come on!

Actually, e-voting could even make thing worse, decreasing the guarantees that counting is done without frauds. With paper, almost everybody has the skills to be an election official and figure out in real time (like any voter standing by in that moment) if somebody hid one ballot paper under the table, or declared it contained one more vote for his or her preferred candidate.

In this sense, e-voting may even be anti-democratic, a very elitist thing to do: “only citizens who can program are good enough to supervise the exercise of democracy”? No, thanks.

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