City of Buenos Aires moves away from e-voting


In 2013, a rushed implementation of e-voting in Salta sparked many flaws. Image: votoelectronico.org

Argentina has been preparing for e-voting for years, not only organizing voting pilots both binding and not binding, but also testing different technologies and involving the electorate. However, after all these efforts, the city of Buenos Aires will have an electronic voting system with the same deficiencies as a manual one.

There are several reasons that disqualify the use of this e-ballot from the start, a ballot that was used in the Argentine province of Salta and which was requested “as is” in the recent bidding carried out by the city of Buenos Aires:

1) It is fundamental that electoral commissions and technology providers take into account a country’s voting idiosyncrasy. The system must adapt to the voters and not the other way around. Although e-voting or an e-ballot always represent changes to an election, these should not be so pronounced as seen from the voter’s end.

2) The city of Buenos Aires won’t have e-voting. What it will have is an e-ballot that people will use to cast their votes, and which will enable each voter to verify that the selection has been correctly recorded. Its disadvantage appears at the end of the voting day, when voting officers must perform the election’s most critical task: tallying. How to guarantee that all ballots are accounted for at the end of the day? If the process were electronic, the votes cast by the citizens wouldn’t be handled by anybody else.

3) E-ballots offer redundancy but on the same physical medium: the vote is printed on one side of the paper and stored as well in an RFID chip. This RFID technology used by the machines selected for the upcoming elections in the city of Buenos Aires has been questioned in other jurisdictions due to the possibility its tampering from a distance, the absence of an unblocking mechanism and of the capability to identify whether a vote by the same person is being recorded twice.

4) Individual e-ballots can be told apart from one another because they each have a unique ID associated to the RFID technology and a serial number. If someone were to access this information, the secrecy of the vote could be easily broken.

**

Although it is true that this system does not add any vulnerabilities, it is also true it maintains several of those already present in manual voting. Problems could arise from presenting a system as “secure and failsafe”, therefore creating a false sense of security, which could lead to relaxed electoral vigilance and even to inadvertent facilitation of fraud.

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