Voting in uncontrolled environment and the secrecy of the vote
ISSN der Zeitschrift
Electronic Voting 2006 – 2nd International Workshop, Co-organized by Council of Europe, ESF TED, IFIP WG 8.6 and E-Voting.CC
Regular Research Papers
Gesellschaft für Informatik e.V.
Voting in uncontrolled environment either by post or by the Internet is about to be made generally available in many countries. The main purpose is to increase participation at times when the voter turnout is generally decreasing. Electronic voting both in or outside controlled environment offers advantages in producing fast and reliable results and long term cost savings in the conduct of elections. A number of problems relating to security, reliability and general trust can be solved by Internet voting, once an infrastructure for voter identification is in place. However, neither postal votes nor Internet votes can guarantee that the vote is cast in secrecy without intimidation or pressure. Even without the most serious violations to a free vote, the pattern of voting will change and the concept of voting being a strictly personal and secret act is likely to be weakened over time. There are few reasons to doubt that the introduction of voting by Internet once generally available will have the same success in terms of usage as other Internet services such as bank transactions, tax returns etc. Once being implemented in a user friendly and reliable manner the electronic interface may within foreseeable future become the major voting channel. This paper does not discuss in depth the legal issues related to whether uncontrolled voting meets international commitments regarding a secret vote. The focus is to what extent the most likely change of voting pattern from a public to a more private, but less secret event, is a positive development. It concludes that the problematic issues which can be raised are fundamental and the long term damage to the perception of a personal and secret vote should be discussed by governments and inter-government organisations. Alternatives such as electronic voting in controlled environment prior to election day may, to a large extent, serve the same purpose without showing the negative side effects of voting outside of controlled environment.