Online Voting Secrecy

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This is an interesting story about the security of online voting. The technologists are, of course, right that these systems are (almost?) all completely insufficient in protecting security. And the bureaucrats are right that it doesn't need to be perfect ... though it does need to be much better.

But both, and the journalist (Miles O'Brien), miss the point that voting secrecy is not solved by online voting, it's exacerbated.

O'Brien says, "Commander Wells ended up faxing in his marked ballot, relinquishing his constitutional right to secrecy."

Like most people in this debate, he don't understand what voting secrecy is. The principle of secrecy in voting is not that you are allowed to keep your vote a secret, but that you are NOT allowed to NOT keep your vote a secret. You can tell someone how you voted, but they'll never know for certain because they didn't actually see you vote.

This means that any time you are voting outside of a private polling booth, you are surrendering your right to secrecy. This includes all forms of voting at home, whether via absentee ballot or online.

The reason this principle exists is primarily so that no one can coerce you. Wells could have his commanding officer looking over his shoulder as he votes. Employers influencing employees. Unions influencing workers. Husbands influencing wives, or vice versa, or influencing their adult kids.

It's also to help prevent selling your vote. Online voting exacerbates this problem: people could sell their authentication information, and then someone else could literally vote for them.

That's not to say we can't have absentee voting. But when we do, we literally give up our right to voting secrecy.

In the state of Washington, where I live, we have no more right to secrecy, because the state is (except for one county) all vote-at-home. You can mail in your ballot, or you can drop it off in a (somewhat) secured box. If you're like me, and you recognize the importance of secrecy, and you have the time, you travel to your county auditor's office on election day and vote on the Disabled Access Voting machines, which are the only way you can still have a secret ballot in most of the state.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on February 22, 2012 7:21 AM.

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