Thu, Dec 06, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Confidentiality critical to e-voting

By William Yang 楊惟任

Thanks to voters’ enthusiasm and a nice weather across the nation, there was a high turnout rate for the Nov. 24 nine-in-one elections. However, as 10 national referendums were held together with the elections, the voting process was much larger in scale and more complex.

The lowering of the age threshold for referendum voters to 18 also led to an increase in the number of voters. Not only did this make voting time-consuming, it delayed the vote-counting process and the announcement of the results.

Due to the lack of preparation by election authorities and slow response at polling stations, long lines formed at stations across the nation, with many people still waiting to cast their ballots when the vote count started at 4pm.

Many people gave up after having waited for too long, while others intentionally cast invalid votes to vent their anger. Although it has yet to be determined if this affected the results, it did undermine the public’s right to exercise their civic rights.

As poorly organized elections could be a variable in the election outcome, Taiwan must avoid a recurrence of the problem by considering electronic voting, allowing people to exercise their civic rights by voting via the Internet using their citizen digital certificates (CDC) or electronic IDs.

Taiwanese are already used to dealing with financial institutions using various kinds of verification tools, and the Ministry of the Interior’s promotion of the CDC has been effective.

As long as the voting details are thoroughly planned, implementing electronic voting would not only be feasible, but also in line with Taiwan’s image as a leading democratic and technologically advanced nation.

Estonia was the first nation in the world to implement electronic voting during its parliamentary elections in 2007. The US, the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland and other nations have also gradually pushed electronic voting.

In Switzerland, people using the electronic system have to wait for a password sent by the authorities by mail before election day to be able to vote. However, in Estonia, voters use their Estonian ID cards, which are similar to Taiwan’s CDCs, and do not have to wait for a special password sent by mail.

Moreover, nations that offer electronic voting do not require voters residing abroad to return to their home country to be able to vote, and early voting prior to election day is available. Estonia even allows people to change their electronic vote by going to the polling station on election day and vote using a paper ballot.

The greatest advantages of electronic voting is convenience and efficiency, making it easy for people to vote, while reducing the workload of polling station staff.

However, its biggest problem is security. If the system is hacked, questions of vote-rigging or voter fraud would give rise to political disputes and election-related lawsuits.

Moreover, electronic voting is no guarantee of voting confidentiality, and this might encourage vote-buying practices and lead to unfair elections. In light of these problems, the government should push for electronic voting with caution.

Allowing absentee voting has been discussed for years, but it will take a long time to build public trust in a new voting system. Once there is voter trust, the nation can skip constituency voting and implement an electronic voting system, thus resolving the absentee voting issue.

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