New Zealand politicians are insanely keen on electronic voting, seeing it as a way to boost turnout, or more cynically, cut costs. The government agrees, with plans to trial the technology at next year's local body elections. Councils are already competing to be the guinea pigs in this experiment.
Meanwhile, from the US, there's a horror story which shows why we can never, ever trust electronic voting:
Security experts have warned that electronic voting systems are decades away from being secure, and to prove it a team from the University of Michigan successfully got the foul-mouthed, drunken Futurama robot Bender elected to head of a school board.The scary thing is that despite the hacking team leaving some fairly blatant hints (such as changing the vote confirmation page to "owned" and having it play their university football anthem), the election board didn't notice until someone complained about the annoying theme music. You'd have thought that having votes cast for Skynet, HAL9000 and Bender would have been a giveaway, but apparently not.
In 2010 the Washington DC election board announced it had set up an e-voting system for absentee ballots and was planning to use it in an election. However, to test the system, it invited the security community and members of the public to try and hack it three weeks before the election.
"It was too good an opportunity to pass up," explained Professor Alex Halderman from the University of Michigan. "How often do you get the chance to hack a government network without the possibility of going to jail?"
E-voting advocates like DPF will no doubt claim that "we'll do it differently. We'll do it securely". Bullshit. The only secure computer system is one which is cut off from the net, locked in a safe, and buried in concrete (and even then, you should probably turn it off just to be sure). Any system which exchanges information with the outside world - for example, to receive votes from electronic polling stations - is vulnerable. That's why intelligence agencies insist on an air gap between systems which handle classified information, and systems which don't. And our voting system is far more important than that.
E-voting means trusting the integrity of our democracy to random script kiddies (and that's without even getting into the horrors of government fixing or a politically-motivated hack). And that is just too dangerous. Paper ballots may be old, they may not be sexy, they may not create business opportunities for government cronies to receive contracts. But they are secure. And where our democracy is concerned, that is what counts.