I’m right about everything. My opinions are wholly rational and a product of logical analysis. Your opinions are scattered thoughts and half-remembered fairy-tales. That’s how most of us think, right? The only way we can get through the day is by thinking we’re correct.
I want to examine some of the things I think I’m right about – but secretly worry I’m wrong about. Let’s start with a gentle one – online voting.
I truly and fundamentally know that online voting is a terrible idea. Every analysis of online voting code – or even electronic voting machines – have shown them to be laughable insecure.
Voters need to be able to audit their votes. Polls have to be hard to corrupt at scale. Yes, voting should be made more convenient. Yes, disabled voters are badly let down by the current system. Yes, it is expensive to run a nation-wide vote but, no, I don’t think online voting would be any cheaper.
And yet… When I chat to the bright-young-things pushing for it, they are utterly sincere.
I remember talking that way back in the late 1990s about the promise of the World Wide Web. I’d explain how online shopping would revolutionise everything – and some old fart would dismiss me. They’d say it was insecure, hard to understand, impossible to guarantee what you were buying, the cost of delivery would wipe out any savings.
So when I talk to voting evangelists, I only have one thought in my head…
WHAT IF I AM THE OLD FART NOW?
I just don’t get it, do I? The old-fashioned spectacle of fogeys lining up to scribble on a bit of paper, and then queue up again to count them is just ridiculous. I acknowledge that.
In my head, all the reasons for disliking online voting are sound. But I worry that I’m wrong.
I’ve written before about the zealots promoting BlockChain Backed Electronic Voting despite its obvious flaws. But they keep coming back, undetterred by reality. Perhaps I need to accept the inevitable?
Is voting too important to A/B test?
The only way we can discover who is right is to run tests. Pick a “minor” election – say West Argleton Town Council – and run a trial of online voting.
Subject it to all the same scrutiny as a major election. Give security experts free-reign to analyse the systems.
Announce success criteria in advance – does it increase participation? How much downtime was there? Were there security issues?
If it works, build it up for a larger election.
If it doesn’t, find out what failed and whether that’s a showstopper.
I’m not wrong
In my heart, and my head, I think secure and reliable online voting at scale is an impossible problem to solve.
I want to be proved wrong.