Election Universe

The real reason Norway ended its electronic voting experiment

June 30 2014, 16:57

E-voting experiments end in Norway amid security fears. Or at least, that’s how the BBC reported events last Friday (27 June, 2014).

However Norway’s Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation was quick to counter the statements made by the news organization.

The BBC said that the trials (during elections in 2011 and 2013) ended because of people’s fears that their votes could become public.

And in its defence, the BBC did post a link to the Governments’ own press release of four days earlier: No more experiments with voting over the Internet

So it’s possible it was a misunderstanding. Yet the Government’s press release makes no mention of public fears. It clearly leads with the statement that the controversy surrounding Internet voting is political. We quote:

Norway has a strong tradition of seeking consensus in all matters regarding electoral policy. Due to the lack of broad political will to introduce Internet voting, the Minister of Local Government and Modernization, Mr. Jan Tore Sanner, decided not to continue expending public resources on continuing the pilots.”

The Norwegian government’s post-BBC report correction is clear. Here’s the story.

168,000 and 250,000 people were able to vote online in the 2011 and 2013 Norway elections, respectively.

The BBC claims that 0.75% of people voted twice – online and at polling stations – and claims to quote the Government’s own report directly.

But the Government’s follow up claims there are no reports of anyone voting twice. Although people who had voted online could vote in booths, and this vote cancelled out the online vote. 528 people did this. 2281 people also voted again online, cancelling out their first vote.

We assume they changed their mind although this provision (allowing subsequent votes to cancel out previous ones) is said to be how authorities can prevent people coercing others to vote a certain way online (because at some point in the future, the individual will be able to vote the way they want).

In its correction of the BBC, the Norwegian government was also keen to point out public trust in Internet voting was high – 94%.

Another claim from the news organization, which was refuted by Norwegian authorities, was that the electronic voting trial was abandoned because it never lead to increased turnout. But Norway’s government states this was never the aim. The goal was to help disabled and oversees voters.

It’s important to continue to examine Internet security and in particular, security and how to protect its secrecy. And that’s just what a new Internet voting centre of excellence will set out to investigate. It’s a joint venture involving Smartmatic and Cybernetica, the lab behind Estonia’s Internet voting technology.