#CyberFLASH: Downsides to online voting

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Given the promotion of online voting, or e-voting, in Guelph in the October municipal election, it might be of interest to review potential downsides of the process:

•E-voting is most convenient for people with reliable internet access, i.e., those who already face the fewest obstacles to conventional voting.

•E-voting is more vulnerable to attack. For example, an e-voting project in Washington, D.C. in 2010 was compromised by students at the University of Michigan, who reprogrammed networked voting machines to play the Michigan fight song after each vote was cast. The intrusion was not detected by the system’s administrators.

•E-voting allows individuals or small groups of attackers to change entire election results. In conventional voting, attacks such as stuffing ballot boxes are more difficult.

•Besides vote fraud, attacks can also compromise the privacy of the vote. Hackers might compromise e-voting systems in order to reveal who voted for which candidate. The privacy of voting is fundamental to its integrity in order to prevent vote selling or coercion.

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