Why I do not like e-Voting

As you know, I am Swiss. Switzerland is known as being one of the most direct democracies in the world. It is not uncommon for us having (or being allowed) to vote every other month as there are a lot of ways to influence what our politicians and/or our government does. This makes the system often pretty slow but I really, really like it.

When I was working for PricewaterhouseCoopers years ago (I think it is around 10 year ago now), the discussions around e-Voting started to come up. People loved it – and I hated it. Let me tell you why: We have (here in Switzerland) several options to vote: We can go to the local community early during the week before a voting and hand our votes in. We can send it via Post (which I use most often) or hand the vote in on the voting weekend. There is a lot of effort then going on to count the votes and we usually have the results ready on the voting weekend around 5pm or 6pm. So, the system works well but there is significant manual work involved, I know. The key thing here is that this process is in the heart of our democracy. If this process is broken (or just not THAT trusted anymore) this would be a significant problem for our country.

Now there were a lot of politicians would loved to talk about e-Voting (without really knowing the consequences in my opinion) as it gave them the touch of being modern, technology aware etc. and there were trials in different states here in Switzerland which were pretty successful.

Why am I still against it? Well, I am convinced that these systems can be built in a more secure way than the old process. Manually counting votes is flawed, we know that. But guess what: We learned to live with that since a long time and trust this system. Do we trust a computer counting the votes? I do not think so. Do we trust a computer not losing votes if we have to do a re-counting (which happens from time to time here of the result is close) – hmm, I guess not.

And looking at recent articles, I think we are right: Diebold comes clean, admits that its e-voting machines are faulty, Mom, Can My Voting Machine Spend the Night? (people taking voting machines home), Why Election Technology is Hard (Bruce Schneier)

So, it is by far not a technology problem but a trust problem. And guess what: I am a geek and I love technology – I will still use paper to vote!


Comments (3)

  1. Anonymous says:

    As you might know, I blogged on e-Voting recently ( Why I do not like e-Voting ) and got quite some reactions.

  2. Shoaib says:

    Hi Roger,

    Good one!

    I might have to disagree with you on this one. It is not technology fault (people taking voting machines home) I think in this case we need to improve the process. We need to make the process more secure. I definitely think if we trust lotto tickets drawn by computer then we can trust e-voting system too.

    If we have secure process and if we use it in a right way, I think e-voting will overrun manual voting system.

    My thoughts..



  3. Rolph says:

    I fully agree with Roger’s view, and to Shoaib I may tell that the comparison with lotto tickets is very weak since in e-voting you have highly sensitive issues that don’t have to be addressed in lottery systems.

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