Low voter turnout has become a lot like bad weather — something everyone talks about, at least around election time, but something that seems beyond remedy. Since various appeals to democratic principles have failed to move people off their couches to vote, some governments are considering internet voting to try and increase voter turnout.
Electronic voting has already been used in some provincial party leadership races and in municipal elections from Huntsville, Ont., to Halifax. But it also has staunch opponents, who warn it can be hacked and suggest it may not do anything to engage voters who are turned off politics.
“Technology . . . can be hacked to distort voter results in ways that can never be traced,” warns Duff Conacher, of the Ottawa-based advocacy group Democracy Watch.
Personal identification numbers, which are usually mailed to people’s homes in order to allow them to vote electronically, can be stolen from mailboxes and used by other people, Conacher said. He also believes there is no way to prevent one person in a household from collecting PINs and casting ballots for every family member.
There are also more high-tech concerns. J. Alex Halderman, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Michigan, hacked into a pilot e-voting project last year in the District of Columbia. D.C. officials had invited the public to test the system’s security as part of an open-source initiative.