ACM Transactions on Accessible Computing
This quarterly publication is a
quarterly journal that publishes
refereed articles addressing issues
of computing as it impacts the
lives of people with disabilities.
The journal will be of particular
interest to SIGACCESS members
and delegrates to its affiliated
conference (i.e., ASSETS), as well
as other international accessibility
of an electoral
system is critical
for those who try to interfere with a
postal voting system.
Postal voting, as any system that
allows a voter to cast a vote outside
a voting booth, still has the disadvantages that voters can be coerced
or paid to vote in a certain way. The
possibility of repeated voting could
reduce this problem. By going to the
polling place after giving the Internet
or postal vote, one has the opportunity
to vote again. However, a patriarch of
a closely controlled family could easily restrict his daughter’s movements
on the final day of the election, just as
he could control their Internet voting.
For those buying votes it is just a small
calculated risk that the seller of a vote
will turn up on Election Day.
Repeated voting on the Internet
may not offer any solution. Votes can
still be bought, not by requiring how
people vote, but by taking control over
their ID codes. This allows the buyer
to vote on their behalf. However, the
Estonian solution with an ID card
would make it more difficult to hand
this over to others. This is especially
the case when the card is also used for
In Isaac Asimov’s science fiction
story Franchise (1955), the all-encompassing supercomputer Multivac chose
Norman Muller as the “Voter of the
Year.” In this electronic democracy,
a single person was selected to represent all voters. Based on the answers
to a set of questions to Norman, Multivac determined the results of the election. Norman was proud that the U.S.
citizens had, through him, “exercised
once again their free, untrammeled
franchise.” This is not exactly Internet
voting, but the two systems do have
something in common: it is impossible
for non-experts to verify they work correctly. The old system with paper bal-
lots may be inefficient, but it does allow
any voter to understand how it works.
This is the case also for postal voting.
Trust in such a system is more direct
than with any e-voting application.
In an October 2011 Communications Inside Risks column, Carsten Schürman
argued for modernizing the Danish
democratic process. 6 He stressed the
importance of listening to the voices of
scientists and other specialists when
designing new systems, but, as we
have seen, this did not work in Norway.
While he praised the European e-voting
initiatives, he was skeptical regarding
Internet voting—“for which there are
still more open problems than solved
ones.” Perhaps voting is one task that
should not be moved to the Internet?
Trustworthy design of an electoral system is critical for democracy; this is a
place where no risks, neither practical
nor theoretical, can be tolerated. The
advantage of running a computer system that is to be used sparingly is also
dubious and, as we have seen, creates
additional risks since users have no
routine. It is also reasonable to believe
that electoral participation does not
depend on the voting system alone.
Perhaps it has something to do with
1. e-Vote 2011 Security Objectives. ministry of local
2. gjøsteen, k. analysis of an Internet voting protocol,
3. meagher, s. When personal computers are
transformed into ballot boxes: how Internet
elections in estonia comply with the united nations
international covenant on civil and political rights.
American University International Law Review 23, 2
(feb. 2009), 349–386.
4. nestås, l.h. and hole, k.j. building and maintaining
trust in Internet voting. IEEE Computer 45, 5 (may
5. Qvortrup, m. first past the postman: voting by mail in
comparative perspective. Political Quarterly 76, 3 (fall
6. schürmann, C. modernizing the Danish democratic
process. Commun. ACM 54, 10 (oct. 2011), 27–29.
7. trechsel, a. et al. Internet Voting in Estonia. A
Comparative Analysis of Four Elections since 2005.
report for the Council of europe, european university
Institute, robert schuman Centre for advanced
Kai A. Olsen ( email@example.com) is a professor
of informatics at molde university College and at the
university of bergen, norway.
hans Fredrik nordhaug ( hans.f.nordhaug@himolde.
no) is an associate professor and study counselor in the
department of informatics at molde university College,