How would you like some government agency to keep track of how you vote, and especially for whom? That’s the first question that sprang to mind when I first heard of Oregon’s Senate Bill 1515.
The bill calls on the secretary of state to form a work group to study Internet voting and to report back to the legislature by Dec. 1, 2014. The measure has cleared the Senate Rules Committee and is making its way through the legislative process with bipartisan support.
Under the terms of the bill, the work group “shall investigate,” among other things, how Internet voting could increase voter turnout in elections, especially among members of the armed forces. Also it’s supposed to look at security features used in private industry for banking, shopping, education and work.
This legislation is being considered after hackers broke into the online shopping system of Target and other concerns and stole personal data from a millions of customers. That’s one angle that should give us all pause: no online system seems to be perfectly secure.
The second point arguing against Internet voting is the principle of the secret ballot. We have weakened that principle by sending everyone a ballot in the mail, allowing plenty of opportunity to breach the secrecy of how we vote at least on the household or family level. But having weakened it is no reason to abandon it altogether.
The very core of dealings on the Internet is that there is no privacy. Business transactions depend on being able to identify, with passwords and computer addresses, who is doing what online. So once we start deciding on ballot measures and selecting candidates online, any adept technician with access to the servers should be able to tell not only which citizens have voted, as now, but also who or what they voted for and against.
With that in mind, we don’t even need to consider whether determined hackers hired by pressure groups could learn to throw elections without having to spend millions on ads. Even without considering that, we can see that online voting is not a great idea. (hh)