Dubblidu

There has been a lot of trial and error around e-elections in the last couple of years. Many countries have encountered various problems and loopholes that lead the government to ban e-elections. From 2005, Estonia has accepted e-elections as a formal way of casting a vote. It seemed to go well, up until this year, when various mishaps raised concern and broke the headlines. Putting all of this aside, what is required to run e-elections, how does it make our live easier and why has it failed to be successful?

Without serious examination, it might seem, that close to nothing is required to successfully run e-elections. A couple of minutes spent on designing and programming should do just fine. The previous might just be what the one responsible had in mind, when he was set to tackle this task. The truth however turned out to be alarmingly different. First of all, the system created can be questioned to be too easily crackable, making it vulnerable to countless malware and spyware programs. These viruses could be put to work in different ways. In example: only votes that favour a certain party will be counted, others will be trashed. Although the malware fixes the elections, the program will still create an illusion of a fair act of vote. This certain problem has been the subject of argue for a long period of time. The main counter argument being that, since there is only a 7 day e-election period (from 10 to 4 days before the election), there is little chance that enough malware was distributed to successfully fix the elections. This claim seems to neglect the speed at which a virus like this might rapidly distribute from a known source. One of these sources might have been the “political-view compass” which I think caught the attention of many and may have started the mayhem, thus being a possible threat to the succession of the electional process.

Although,politics and politicians, seem to be the impact area concerning e-elections, there is another ultimate goal that I think the system was projected towards. That is the need to increase the interest in public-voting. Polls showed that the interest in e-elections was the highest among people 35 and below. This is all great, but the fact is that the people in desperate need for e-elections are the ones who live so to say “in the middle of the forest”, thus having no access to any of the genuine voting stations and no possibility to go voting. The pitfall in this assumption is that most people who live in the middle of nowhere, next to nothing will not have Internet access, again making them unable to go voting. Another factor, leaning for e-elections is that it is economically sufficient, saving money and human resources. Money could be saved off of paper, inc and fuel. On top of all that, there is almost no need for human interference, leaving people to be productive in other fields of live, yet again saving money for the government.

As the topic is e-elections, it is hard to decide from which end to start. First of all, there is a problem with vote duplication because there is no formal supervision held over the votes. This problem is enhanced by the fact that there is a possibility for one to change ones vote during the vote period. If there were too many requests at one time there could be a server flood, that would cause the previous vote not to be deleted/changed. This would make the person have more than one vote, thus creating for an unfair election. As votes are concerned, there is also no strict control over whether a person, having already casted ones vote over the Internet, will go and elect again in the public, paper form, elections. I say strict, because the department dealing with these elections claims that they have everything under control. Since there is no actual proof, because the votes casted are anonymous, the claim can not be proven or overruled. As virtual identity theft is increasingly more present, there is also a problem with the valid identification of a person. Let us say that grandmother lets his grandson vote for her over the Internet, since the political views of grandson and grandmother do not match, the man decides to cast two votes for his own politician of choice. Over the Internet, such manipulations can not be checked, as they can in a public, paper based, elections. Another problem, perhaps the most threatening of them all, is the fact that the control over this whole system is left in the hands of a few individuals. This small group of people has a higher than average risk of being corrupt, leaving for a chance of fixed elections. This kind of manipulation of votes could have occurred in Estonia while there was no flow of information for a hour and a half, apparently there was counting in process at that time, or was there? The scaring fact is how easily they could have gotten away with it. Since e-elections were most popular among people of 35 and below, who belong into middle/upper-middle class and are most commonly voting for the Reform party, there would be no questions asked, when suddenly a couple of thousand votes, under that category were changed to support the Reform party. At this moment, only those handful of people, responsible for the “counting” could tell us the truth, until they have spoken, nothing can be known.

Overall, there is a large mess gathered around e-elections. Failure of correct assessment of the technology and resources needed, fallacious reasoning, when it comes to the target group and the inability to correctly cast and count votes, only being some of the major problems haunting e-elections. The decision of baning e-elections in some of the countries might have been a choice that overall saves more money than the program was initially supposed to. May be there is a future to e-elections? Only time will tell.