Thursday, January 04, 2007

Electronic Voting Update

Just stumbled across this update in InfoWorld on electronic voting issues.

I thought this exchange was telling:

IDGNS: Some of those ideas don't sound like they'd get around the "black box" question with e-voting -- that people don't see what's going on in the machine.

Spafford: There's something that I think has been overlooked by a lot of people who work in this realm. The average voter does not have the technological sophistication to have confidence that the mechanism preserves their anonymity and their vote. Some of the methods that involve cryptography, for instance, while scientifically very sound, would be used by people who don't understand the mathematics behind it and are mistrustful of the idea that they would have to take someone's word that it works.

The method of having a paper record is a technology people can immediately grasp and understand. That's really important. We want not only to protect the vote, but we want people to feel comfortable that their vote matters.

Anything that we do to make the system more complex or difficult to understand disenfranchises some people.

That last paragraph from Dr. Spafford is incredibly important. There's no point in spiffing up voting with new technology if it makes people even think that their votes are devalued. Voting is power, and arguably the only power we have that really counts. We should be finding ways to make people feel empowered, not discouraged.

Electronic voting is still a solution in search of a problem, much like high-tech weapons systems searching for a conflict to resolve.

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