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Monday, 30 June 2014 08:40

Norway goes cold on Internet voting

Written by Nick Farrell

Not worth the effort

Norway is ending trials of e-voting systems in its national and local elections because voters' fears about their votes becoming public could undermine democratic processes. Experiments with voting via the net were carried out during elections held in 2011 and 2013.

But the whole thing was a disaster. The trials did not boost turn out and there was a political controversy over voter privacy. In a statement, Norway's Office of Modernisation said although there was "broad political desire" to let people vote via the net, the poor results from the last two experiments had convinced the government to stop spending money on the project. 

The 2013 trial was marred by the fact that the encryption scheme used to protect votes being sent across the net was a little dodgy. Software experts called for the entire voting system to be rewritten to better protect data. In 2013 70,000 Norwegians took the chance to cast an e-vote. This represented about 38 per cent of all the 250,000 people across 12 towns and cities who were eligible to vote online.

But that did not mean that there was a rise in the overall number of people voting nor that it mobilised new groups, such as young people, to vote. The report by Norway's Institute of Social Research also expressed worries about the fact that online voting took place in what it called "uncontrolled environments". This, it said, undermined the need for a vote to be made in secret without anyone influencing the voter as they made their choice.

Basically there was a concern that families would be forced to vote the same way, when a secret ballot would have lead to family members voting in different ways.

It said there was also some evidence that a small number of people, 0.75% of all voters, managed to vote twice in 2013. They did this by voting once online then travelling to a polling station to cast a paper ballot.

Nick Farrell

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