Politicians have joked for some time that the best way to get more voters to come to the polls is to put the elections up on Facebook, or let citizens simply swipe an app on their smartphones. While in the US that may be a tongue-in-cheek remark about the state of the digital world, electronic voting is taking off in other parts of the globe.
Voter apathy has been a worldwide problem, one in which citizens don’t exercise their right to have a voice in the government for many different reasons. Often it’s simply a hassle to get down to the polling place and cast a ballot, but for many people in oppressed societies, voting at all can lead to physical harm, and voting for the wrong candidate can lead to violent crimes. For those reasons and more, many countries around the world have toyed with the idea of internet-based voting, which basically lets the people go to the website and log in so that their protected rights can be exercised through a secure network.
Norway, however, has already experimented with the so-called e-voting, and has now declared an end to the experiment. The government announced it will stop e-voting measures due to fears of identity theft and privacy, as well as the discovery that this new method of voting did nothing to improve the numbers of voters who participated in the elections in 2011 and 2013.
Of the more than 250,000 citizens in twelve Norwegian cities who were eligible to participate in the electronic voting trial, only about 38% of them did so, for a total of around 70,000 people. The government has cited the cost of maintaining this method of voting as reason enough not to continue the program if these numbers are indicative of the response.
But more important are the fears of identity theft and privacy that surrounded the most recent elections. Leading up to the election, consumer advocates and politicians alike were very vocal about their concerns that inputting the required amount of personally identifiable information could lead to personal data breaches from cyber hackers. An even bigger concern was that hackers could access the voting results and publish lists of who the citizens voted for, an especially frightening thought in a country where voter privacy is so highly valued.
While voting in the US typically comes down to selecting a candidate from one of only two major parties, that’s not usually the case for the rest of the world. In many parts of Europe, there are dozens of key political parties, and party affiliation is a much bigger cause for privacy. Advocates of voter privacy pointed to fears that citizens could be coerced into voting for someone they hadn’t intended to vote for, especially if online voting happens at home rather than in a secure, controlled polling place.
One of the chief criticisms of online voting, voter repetition, didn’t appear to be a significant problem in either of the two election years. Norway’s announcement that it will stop online voting is certainly coming at an important time, as the UK has been pushing for electronic voting in order to encourage younger people to take part in the election process.
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