The Only Way Is Verifiable Online Voting
We are in an amazing time period for innovation and technological advances. We are wearing computers as watches, using drones for selfies, and 3D printing just about whatever we want. But voting as an industry hasn’t seen much advancement in quite a few years. In fact many US states have recently decertified modern voting machines due to certain vulnerabilities.
In reality this is an industry that is in dire need of innovation. To have a successful democracy and a government that works for the people, voters need to be engaged. There have been all sorts of different ideas about increasing voter turnout but the fact remains that voters still need to show up to a physical polling location and cast a ballot into a black box. You are told that your vote counted but you cannot prove it. At Follow My Vote we believe that voters will be more engaged if they can prove that their voice was heard and that their vote was counted.
The UK is taking a step in the right direction. Earlier this year the speaker of the House of Commons called for a secure online voting system by 2020.
But what about all the online voting cases that failed? Didn’t we learn that online voting can’t be done?
It is rare that one becomes successful with out learning from failure.
To be successful we must have verifiable online voting. This is not an easy task. A verifiable online voting system must be transparent so that each voter can check that their vote was cast correctly and actually was counted as cast. The real trick is balancing transparency with anonymity. We must retain the secrecy of the ballot. Otherwise voter coercion can occur. Verifiable online voting makes this feasible.
Follow My vote is using a revolutionary technology to bring innovation to voting and to make verifiable online voting possible. We are developing the voting platform of the future where any voter can verify that their vote was counted, while remaining anonymous to other voters. Don’t worry we also use the service of 3rd party verifiers to verify identities of voters.
Any online voting system has to arrive at its conclusion in such a way that voters and observers can verify the count, independently of the software used – this is called end-to-end verifiability. This way voters can be assured that their votes were recorded as they were cast, and that all cast votes were counted correctly.
The vital nature of this can be explained by analogy to online banking. Bank customers can verify their own bank statements – and need not care about the software that produced them. But what if the banks provided no evidence of your transactions, just your remaining balance – how could you verify that the bank wasn’t cheating you?
The difficulty in respect of online voting is that how each voter cast their vote must be kept secret – we can’t just have a huge banking-like “statement” recording who voted which way. Instead, all the votes cast are gathered together and presented on a website in encrypted form, in order to ensure ballot secrecy.
The challenge is to design a way of using encryption that allows an independently-verifiable tallying of individual votes, without removing the secrecy it affords the ballots. Methods have been invented that allow the voting server to generate cryptographically-sound proofs that its count is correct. This means voters, observers and media organizations can perform the necessary checks to establish that the declared outcome really does match the votes cast in the elections.
Source: The Conversation
About the author: Will Long is the Marketing Manager of Follow My Vote. He enjoys writing about verifiable online voting, as it is the only way online voting can become a reality.