With increasing technological advancements and reliance on the Internet and technology, it comes as no surprise that some people are eager to introduce online voting. It could encourage more people to vote, as it would only require a few clicks of a button and voters would not have to brave any adverse weather conditions to get to their local polling stations. However, this is a very simplistic analysis of online voting, which would actually be far more dangerous for democracy.
One of the biggest problems with Internet voting is the security risk. Last year, a National Security Agency report revealed that Russian intelligence agents had managed to hack the US voting system manufacturer in the run-up to the Presidential Election. This poses a huge threat in itself, but if all voting goes online, it remains vulnerable to cyber attacks, either to alter the vote or install viruses. A big concern is that not all voters would be using secure systems to vote and could be using unsecured personal computers, even on public networks. This can ultimately compromise an entire election and makes the method of a cross in a box a lot safer from interference. If cyber attacks were to occur, it could also discourage citizens from even voting and lower the overall turnout. As well as any cyber threats, technological issues could result in a power outage or reduced Internet connection that could prevent people from voting on the day. Overall, security threats and technological issues with online voting make the entire idea incredibly risky.
A major argument in favour of online voting is over accessibility. It makes it easier for people to vote that otherwise might have difficulty getting to an actual polling station. However, this is also an important issue against online voting. For starters, the digital divide exists. In the UK, 10.2% of the population have never used the Internet. On a global scale, only around 40% of the total population have access to the Internet. This is a major problem because it cuts out a large chunk of the electorate. The whole point of democracy is that everyone has the right to vote but online voting would restrict voting access, making the process wholly undemocratic. Whilst some people argue that online voting would benefit disabled voters, 25% of disabled adults in the UK have never used the Internet. Therefore, online voting would cut a significant amount of the electorate out which is both unfair and could lead to skewed results. Younger people are more likely to be comfortable with online tools, which could risk missing out votes from older generations and therefore not be representative of what the population wants. Needing access to the Internet also creates huge socio-economic divides, whereby those who are wealthier and living in urban areas will be more likely to be able to vote and those in poorer, more rural areas will not.
Finally, online voting increases the possibility of voter fraud and coercion. Internet voting would obviously require a secure login and unique password in order to access your ballot, but it is a lot easier to either intercept this or by-pass it than someone physically turning up to a polling station as someone else. Voter fraud is nothing short of a non-issue, but online voting could increase the opportunity for people to vote on other people’s behalf or even to buy votes. Online voter authentication can ultimately mean that logins and passwords can be shared or found and increase the chance of a person voting on an ‘account’ that was not theirs.
Overall, whilst there are clear advantages of online voting, it is far too risky to actually begin implementation. It can be prone to power outages, cyber attacks and increase the chance of voter fraud. Most importantly, it cuts out a large proportion of those who should usually be eligible to vote and to cut them out would be defeating the entire premise of democracy.