Setting Online Voting Rules

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Online voting rules

When voters opt to vote, via any voting channel, they need to trust the administrators that run the election and oversee the transmission of the results, and it has never been a blind trust. This trust takes on an additional dimension when online voting and election processes are put in place.


Maybe start by checking this out: Maintaining trust and engagement in Canadian elections.

Rule #1 Trust your democracy

If you don’t, then postpone any electronic voting trials until you do! Elections are all about democracy and in the discussion on e-voting IT people tend to forget that. Strong democracy is legally, institutionally and ethically protected. No firewall can match that. Any election is a set of processes. In a strong democracy these processes work well and produce results which are not disputed by the interested parties. Online voting is a sturdy step forward for election processes. When and if something works well – in this case a mature democratic tradition – it is only then that you should take it forward.

Rule #2 Trust your government

Any election is run by administrative officials. When a voter opts to vote, via any voting channel he is offered be it physical or digital, she or he needs to trust the administrators that run the election and oversee the transmission of the results. Mind you this has never been a blind trust. The observation of all stages of an election by multiple stakeholders is a tradition, the same goes for online voting. But remember, you always put your trust in the people and not the means used to provide an election, whether physical or digital.

Rule #3 Trust your citizens

Sad but true, voters have been selling their votes for very little ever since the beginning of voting practices in Ancient Greece. In an Aristotelian view these may not be true citizens. Yet citizenship is awarded upon specific legal requirements in our times. You can always educate voters, but there will always be those who will not obey the law and at the end of the day if they want to sell their vote they will find a way to do so.

As such one cannot exclude a whole set of means that technology offers just because some will use it maliciously. Citizens may sell their electronic voting credentials or be coerced to make a choice by other citizens (family, work related, military …) via paper voting as well. Ensuring the appropriate measure to detract from vote selling (digitally or physically) is essential.   

Rule #4 Trust your vendor

Governments contract services and products for all types of projects, elections have never been an exception. As no two elections are the same, election related products and services are custom-made or tailored accordingly. To do so, you need to work closely with your vendor. Again, this should never be a blind trust. Co-ordinate, check, re-check and then check again…and something may still go wrong! You will need a vendor that will be there with you through to the very end and anticipate these potential issues and fix those not anticipated by the systems for things to work out. And mind you, things have to work out because elections are a time critical event. You cannot have a second go at it. If you do, you break rule #1 by hurting the trust in your democracy.