Why Online Voting Is Harder Than Online Banking

from ars technica

For a feature last week, I talked to a number of election experts and computer security researchers who argued that secure Internet voting isn’t feasible today and probably won’t be for many years to come. A common response to this argument—one that came up in comments to last week’s article—is to compare voting to banking. After all, we regularly use the Internet to move money around the world. Why can’t we use the same techniques to secure online votes?

But voting has some unique requirements that make secure online voting a particularly challenging problem.

Every electronic transaction in the conventional banking system is tied to a specific sender and recipient who can confirm that a transaction is valid or raise the alarm if it isn’t. Banks count on customers to periodically review their transactions—either online or in paper statements—and notify the bank if fraudulent transactions occur.

By contrast, experts told me, elections are supposed to be secret. In-person elections don’t just allow voters to cast a secret ballot, they typically require them to do so. Mandatory secrecy insulates voters from coercion by bosses, abusive spouses, elder care workers, or others in positions of power or influence.

More here.

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  1. Due to the pandemic falling on an election year, the country had to face the issue of being able to vote without leaving the house. A combination of mail in ballots and in person votes made up the votes this year. Something that isn’t usually considered in the voting process are online ballots. To many, including myself, this is surprising. You would think that by 2020, online voting would be more than capable of being done safely and accurately. The article “Why Online Voting is Harder than Online Banking” briefly talks about the problems that come with online voting. Firstly, voting is supposed to be an 100% anonymous process, besides the location of where the vote came from, a voter’s information is unknown. Something that many forget about the internet is how that you are truly never anonymous. The article states that “Building a secure digital voting system with the same properties is difficult. If votes aren’t linked to voter identities, there’s no way for voters—or anyone else—to verify that their votes were recorded accurately.” Keeping the process anonymous enough to follow the privacy rule and secure enough to ensure that votes are being counted is too much of a hassle to currently incorporate. Another topic that is bought up in the article is how hard it is to make something 100% secure on the internet. The example they use is online banking and how it isn’t as secure as many would think. If votes were held online and some sort of hack were to happen, referring to it as catastrophic would be an understatement. It would immediately ruin the current election and lead to more problems than we could imagine. In recent history, international hackers have been getting better and better at what they do. If word got out that an online vote was being conducted, a huge target would’ve been put on the election. Something else to consider is the success that mail in ballots had this year. If the mail in process didn’t go as planned than maybe online ballots would be considered, but since votes were able to be counted accurately from mail in, I doubt that online votes will be becoming a thing any time soon.

  2. This article brings back memories of discussions that occurred across the country during the 2020 election. I don’t take anything from this article regarding online banking, as this was not the main addressing point in the article “Why online voting is harder than online banking”. Online voting was used during the 2020 election due to the pandemic and rising COVID-19 cases. It was seen as the best option to continue with the election process while keeping individuals’ safety in check. Online voting is a very corrupt method that should not be continued in the future. The past election showed lots of uncertainty. Donald Trump would continue to argue over the legitimacy of the voting and the counting, as it was fair because there was so little information regarding the counting process. The article further demonstrates the question of legitimacy by illustrating, “If votes aren’t linked to voter identities, there’s no way for voters—or anyone else—to verify that their votes were recorded accurately,”. This caused many people who voted on the losing side to question the counting, which caused conspiracy theories of the election to be rigged. This is terrible for America because citizens questioning the countries integrity is not encouraging. The amount of secrecy is something that is rightfully questioned. The process should be more developed in the future to prevent questioning and claims from politicians and the American people. I’ve always been a believer that you cannot please everyone, but online voting is an issue and something the United States has to address if they go back to this way of voting in the future. Accurately proof and record of votes is something that was lacked in the 2020 election. It’s a legitimate problem due to rumors of foreign country interference being questioned in the 2016 election, most specifically Russia. The 2020 election was a time where we needed to prove the authenticity with the process, coming off numerous 2016 rumors, but it appeared the switch to online voting brought many flaws that have to be addressed, as it was a clear step back from traditional voting.

  3. Issues of vote suppression, dilution, and election fraud plague the American political system. We encounter countless problems regarding fraud and unequal voting power every election cycle. Making election day a federal holiday and expanding early voting practices would help make elections more equitable. When we all have a chance to have our voices heard, elections result in elected candidates who best represent the ideas and beliefs of their constituents.

    Currently, about roughly half of the US’s eligible voting population actually votes in major federal elections. This is an extremely sad statistic as it shows how disengaged the American population is in the political process. This statistic also does not highlight how much the total US population is actually registered to vote. Additionally, even though roughly half of all eligible US voters vote in federal elections, these people might not have equal voting power due to the effects of Gerrymandering.

    Some think online voting could be a good way to raise participation in the US political system. It would make voting easier, just like early voting and making election day a federal holiday. However, online voting is not a secure or confidential alternative. Online voting systems can be hacked just like banks. Although, there are many differences between online banking and online elections. First of all, banks can refund their customers if their accounts are hacked, while countries can’t refund votes to the politicians who were perceived to have lost the election. Banks can track transactions to see who hacked an account and transferred the stolen money to their account, while online election systems can’t track hackers who interfere with vote counts. Another huge problem with online elections, is that elections lose the element of confidentiality. Paper ballots can’t be associated with a particular person, while online ballots have to be directly traceable to the voter in order to maintain a record of who actually voted. Without having a formal record of who voted for which candidate, then people can vote as often as they want. Unfortunately, online voting is not the solution to strengthening democracy in the United States. Rather it puts democracy in danger, and questions election integrity. Early voting and making election day a federal holiday, lead to increased participation in the US political system and expand the effectiveness of our democracy.

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