7 reasons why online voting is part of a solution and why Martyn Bradbury is horribly wrong

Blogger Martyn Bradbury just posted this up this article over on the Daily Blog of which he is the editor. I’ll go through and rip apart his lack of understanding and highlight where we agree. 

Online voting is being (waved around again) *put forward as part of a package* as a means to increase participation. Here are the 7 reasons why I think online voting is a (bad) *great* idea.

1 – 21% of those asked why they didn’t vote in 2011 gave ‘didn’t get round to it, forgot or were not interested’ as their reason. Online voting (hardly seems to be the solution to that statistic) *is a great solution to that statistic*. “The 20% who weren’t enrolled is where we should be speeding up the online process” I agree, and would add *as well as the actual voting!.*

2 – Martyn argues that there is a certain type of bonding that occurs when people are forced into standing beside someone, thats true, and a lot of people don’t want to do that, nor should they be forced to.  He says proximity is an important part of the process, I counter this is rubbish and I don’t think it is at all. The statement ‘more respect than the click of a keyboard’ is pretty bad coming from someone who routinely spends his time, as do most youth, clicking at a keyboard.

This is a very interesting point because it brings up the much larger issue of online participation in society in a variety of things. Often media will report that there were 100 protesters at an event, and sometimes they’ll mention ‘but 1000 had clicked attending on Facebook’. I have seen this used to justify an opinion piece stating the lack of real interest in whatever the protest is about. Older people and some more ‘politically affluent’ youngsters might harp on about this and believe it but its far from the truth, many people (old and young) prefer to live a good section of their lives online and good on them. When they click attending on a protest they are already there in their mind, and not having to travel there expending carbon, or unable to be there due to other commitments mean they have put their hand up in solidarity to be counted and so they should.  

3 – Online voting is horrifically easy to hack.

^ This is hilarious! And shows just how little understanding Martyn Bradbury has of online voting. Check out what he links to – Srsly Bomber WTF. Noone is promoting voting machines, which to be clear, aren’t voting online, they’re known as a form of electronic voting, and with closed mashines, using proprietary software, they can indeed be easy to hack.

So without even talking about whats actually being put forward, we’ve seen how this entire article falls over. Online voting in NZ, tied to the NZ Govt’s RealMe system, which people currently use to do their taxes/studylink/winz/Companies office etc etc would be utilising an existing relatively secure system along with a well designed and easy to use website, its totally possible and using open source code, monitored in realtime by registered volunteers and/or paid scrutineers, any hacks would be quickly uncovered. No system is ever perfect, the current ballot system can be ‘hacked’, and anything online can eventually be hacked with time, but we’d know. 

4 – Our current regulation over the intelligence apparatus is woefully inadequate and the risk they would start tampering with results could never be ruled out.

^ The answer to this is covered in my previous answer. I personally don’t think even the habitually haphazard GCSB & SIS would be so silly to interfere, and if they were we could hopefully shut them down for all intents and purposes, so bring it on? But in all seriousness, we’d know. We’d make sure we did. We’re not rolling out a stupid system, hey it wouldn’t be Novopay, and you can bet your ass it’d be kiwi built, because we’ve got enough IT genius here to make something kick ass. And enough naysaying coders that would love to sit there and watch to see if people tried to hack it. 

5 – When NZ has 7 servers based here for a security hacking corporation and Australia only has 4, online voting is open to tampering.

Covered.

6 – The Snowden revelations tell us that the NSA ability to intercept and manipulate data means very few online systems are safe.

Covered.

7 – There are better ways of lifting participation rates: lowering voting age to 16, making the election a statutory holiday, allow prisoners to vote, allow easier enrolment onto the non-published roll.

Lets do this too. Theres absolutely no reason we can’t do all of them, apart from a lack of funding, and if democracy isn’t worth funding, we’re not in a democracy. 

So all up most of the ‘reason’s have the same answer, and they’re based on irrational fear. If we let our style of democracy be based on irrational fear then there’s something wrong. 

Martyn-Bomber-Bradbury-wintec-editor-in-residence

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6 thoughts on “7 reasons why online voting is part of a solution and why Martyn Bradbury is horribly wrong

  1. 3. If malware infects a voting server it might not be detectable at all even if it is open source. As elections are a crucial part of decision on governance the election process is more of a target than other online services provided by the government and will be more likely to come under attack by criminal organizations or foreign governments who may reap benefits from certain political party’s.

  2. james says:

    The problem is the realme system is FAR from free, infact the price required to use it makes trotting off down to the library to manually check the electoral role a far more viable prospect. Ironically despite the fact that a geneology website can have an electronic copy of the electoral role, a democracy type application can not. ( Have asked DIA multiple times)

    The real benefit in e democracy is satellite apps that inform our elected representatives as to how their constituency feels about various topics which could act as a tool to ensuring policticans/councillors and other geographic authorities correctly represent their constituents. Currently there are no such tools in the shed. I have a ready to go app for this, but without cooperation from DIA in terms of releasing the electoral role or lowering the entry level pricing of real me it just isn’t going to happen.

  3. Cactus Kate says:

    I would have thought with Kim Dot Com on your team you would want online voting. Who would you think would be the first suspect in any hacking?

    • Wow hello Cactus Kate, thanks for deigning us mere mortal plebs with your presence! If by having Kim Dotcom on your team you mean that he also wants to change the government, and get rid of John Key, then I guess he is ‘on my team’. Its a big team.

      The first suspect in any hacking? That would be the GCSB/SIS, who have already shown that they’ve engaged in unlawful interception, surveillance and data gathering and been proven guilty! Of course Key let them off and got the pesky law changed, which saw tens of thousands of people take to the streets in protest. That didn’t stop Key of course, unfortunately!

      Thanks for visiting the blog, should visit yours one day, its at least more intelligent than Whale and Penguins combined (I’m told)

  4. @VoteLeft14 says:

    Martyn’s great, you’re great … convincing argument.

    re: “Online voting is horrifically easy to hack.” … just check out the number one country in the world to implement it, and you will find it was incredibly easy to manipulate the system. #WhiteHat … possible, didn’t happen … sometimes socially speaking: people can not play with fire even, when they’re holding a flame next to a fuse.

  5. I strongly disagree with you on this one Max. Online voting is a terrible idea. The current voting system is exploitable but limited by the physics of having to turn up in person. Online voting has no such limit. And no, we wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell that hackery had occurred.

    Let’s examine what we need for secure online voting:

    Firstly, you need the system to be entirely transparent. Not only does it need to be open source, you also need to verify that the server is indeed running the code as-written without interference. I don’t know how that’s possible.

    Secondly, you need to be able to write secure code. We will never have actually secure code until we can write code without bugs, which we don’t know how to do without ridiculous expense.

    Thirdly, you need the devices (computers/smartphones) voters are using to be secure. If an attacker can hack the device (through any of the usual ways like a virus or spear phishing), obviously they can alter the vote when it is cast, or steal the password/other identification method. Alternatively they can use a wi-fi honeypot offering a fake voting website/voting app download.

    Fourthly, there’s no way to actually verify the identity of the person voting. How many people have good password security? And if you don’t use passwords, what – some biometric data that’s even easier to steal, like fingerprints or retina scans? This is an unsolved problem in computer science and quite likely has no solution apart from those that eliminate the benefits of e-voting, such as a video call with a human operator… also you have to do this while maintaining privacy.

    There would also be increased possibilities for manipulation within a household.

    Voting requires a much higher standard of security, one which the Internet can’t provide.

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