It’s 2020; cars can drive by themselves, food will arrive at our door with a tap on our phone and a giant computer hidden somewhere knows more about your wife than your wife.
Surely by now, we’d be able to vote online, right? Just log in to SingPass and vote, and ta-da: everything’s done without you having to step out of your house.
This is especially so when this year’s General Election is most probably going to take place during the COVID-19 outbreak period, whereby we’re advised to do social distancing. This is perhaps the best time to try out online voting, isn’t it?
Well, before that, you might want to read more news.
Online Voting in Iowa = A Disaster
Currently, over in the US, people are voting for the candidate to go against Donald Trump in the Presidential Election that’ll take place in November this year.
It’s not a full election per se, as they’re just votes by a group of people in a state for them to choose who should stand for the main election.
Just a month ago, the US state, Iowa, decided something new: instead of getting humans to count the votes, they used an app to collect the results. Voting is still done as usual but results would be collected through the app, so people can know the numbers faster.
Because a super computer can definitely count faster than your mum, right?
Well, as you probably know, it didn’t end well.
It didn’t work as well as it should be, leading to delays in the announcement of the final results. Known as the IowaRecorder, it’s later revealed that it’s not only poorly made, but not tested well, too. In fact, someone even said it’s like “an app built by a student learning how to program and following online tutorials.”
In addition, there were allegations that since the developer of the app is a for-profit company, it has once received money from some of the candidates for services unrelated to the app.
Needless to say, it created quite a hoo-ha over in the US.
You can watch Trevor Noah joking about it here:
But this could be a one-time incident, right?
Notwithstanding the fact that it happened just one month ago, there are many other reasons why online voting isn’t feasible.
And here’s the key reason:
Security, Security and Security
I know what you’re thinking: just make it more secure lah.
If only it could be so easy.
If you prefer to watch a video about this topic, here’s a video we’ve done on this:
(Also check out our YouTube channel for more informative and entertaining videos!)
Still here? Okay, let’s move on.
You see, online shopping, online banking or even your emails are actually very, very secure. Add in 2FA and it’ll be even more secure than your browsing history.
After all, these platforms are made by the best brains in the world.
But yet, you’re still reading stories about how people got “hacked”.
It’s because despite the platform being highly secure, your device also needs to be secure. If you’ve been watching some Japanese movies at night, your device is most probably compromised. And we’re not talking about fly-by-night hackers who just installed a malware in your computer: we’re talking about well-funded state attack that could have been lurking in your device since the day you bought it.
Other than that, there’s still social engineering hack.
In a nutshell, social engineering is a tactic used by hackers to slowly, but surely, convince you to click on a link or provide details. An example is a sudden email by your boss to click on a link: when you see your boss’ email address, you’d not think twice and click it immediately, right?
Well, it could be a spoofed email and once you click on the link, your device might be compromised immediately.
The worst part of this is that no one would know how many of those online votes are real or fake. Social engineers might even let you vote online for a party via an official channel, but send in another vote through your device.
It’s that scary.
In fact, I’ll scare you even more: your device might be used for something known as a DDoS attack for years now, because hackers need many devices to implement such an attack and would usually use real devices like yours.
While this simple (and main) reason itself would have convinced you it’s not feasible to do online voting, there are more reasons.
Not Everyone Goes Online
Everyone you know might know what the Internet’s all about, but what you think might not be true.
Over in Singapore, the Internet penetration rate is 93%–which means there are still 7% of the population who don’t have access to the Internet or simply don’t want to use it.
Unlike online banking whereby there is still an option for non-internet-savvy people to update their passbook in banks, it’d be a mess if there are so many options for elections.
Lack of Authenticity on Voters
In a typical poll, a person has to present his or her NRIC card to confirm his identity. However, if you do it online, you can easily get someone to vote for you—or worse, someone to vote for you without you knowing.
After all, touch your heart and admit that you’ve given your password to someone else before, or you use the password “passwordz” for your password.
Who Makes the Platform?
As mentioned earlier, there’s a controversy in the Iowa situation as the company that makes the app has some of the candidates as its past clients. This is when impartiality is being questioned: who should create the platform?
Remember, during an election, there is supposedly “no Government”, so if an increment government commissioned the development of the platform, wouldn’t there be a conflict of interest? The only option is to get a company, a foreign one instead, to develop the platform, but let’s face it: every company would lead towards somewhere.
Whether it’s profit or core values or whatnot, there’s always going to be issues with impartiality.
In a traditional poll, different political parties can have their people standing around to witness the voting and counting, so that is always impartial.
But moving on, let’s pose the burning question you have now:
Are Countries Doing E-Voting?
While it seems like e-voting might never occur, there are actually countries and states doing that.
Partially, that is.
However, they’re usually machines in polling stations instead, and some were scrapped soon after. This is known as “supervised e-voting” since people would still go to polling stations but press buttons instead of using a pen and ballot paper.
For example, Ireland spent almost SGD$63 million to buy voting machines that can be used in polling stations, and after a pilot test, they threw away those machines.
The other type is called “remote e-voting”, which is what is discussed in this article.
Some states do use remote e-voting for smaller elections, and several others used them for overseas voters. However, a full-fledged e-voting system is not in place anywhere yet; usually, it’s combined with the normal voting system.
So, would we finally see remote e-voting in the future?
Unless the problem of your device’s security is solved, this might be a…remote dream.