Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet Government Politics

Estonian Internet Voting Called a Success 291

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the rights-and-privileges dept.
composer314 writes "The Associated Press is reporting that the small European nation of Estonia has conducted large-scale voting over the Internet. From the article: "Last week, Estonia became the first country in the world to hold an election allowing voters nationwide to cast ballots over the internet. Fewer than 10,000 people, or 1 percent of registered voters, participated online in elections for mayors and city councils across the country, but officials hailed the experiment as a success." The system is built on Linux." I guess it works well when the Internet is considered a human right.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Estonian Internet Voting Called a Success

Comments Filter:
  • by ludomancer (921940) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @07:47PM (#13822555)
    Such a success, we got back twice as many votes as our population! We had no idea it would work so well!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @07:48PM (#13822563)
    Call me a geographically challenged USA-ian, but I think this must be a hoax.
    If you read the Dilbert cartoon, Estonia is the fake country with the bearded people

    And if it were real, I'm sure I would have heard of it buy now since all the real countries have obvious names like England, Mexico, Canada, France, etc. etc.
    I actually wonder about some of those -stan prefixed former Russian countries...do they exist?
  • by Starker_Kull (896770) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @07:48PM (#13822570)
    I wonder what would have had to happen for it to be considered a failure.
    • Perhaps it displayed a snappy song-and-dance number.

      "Hey, we're Estonia,
      We like macaronia,
      And it's time to voooote!"

      That would be a success of a kind.
    • I wonder what would have had to happen for it to be considered a failure.

      More people voting then are actually elligble would have been considered a failure. By the losing opponent(s) anyway.
    • [Less than] 1 percent of registered voters ... participated ..., but officials hailed the experiment as a success.

      Is Estonia an oligarchy? Maybe the "but" should've be a "therefore"...

    • by bypedd (922626) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @08:50PM (#13823004)
      Although they don't suggest it, perhaps that 1% have mobility impairments and have never voted before, but now they get a chance. Obviously that's the best case scenario, but it seems a little ridiculous that there haven't been more efforts to expand the possibilities of voting. And scoffing at 1%? How many people do absentee votes in the U.S. (or any democratic country)? I would guess it's not more than 10%. And yet, for many, it's the only way they can vote. And absentee voting has been around for years, so I think 1% is not fantastic, but it's a good start.
      • How many people do absentee votes in the U.S. (or any democratic country)?

        The entire state of Oregon votes via mail. [ncsl.org] Washington State was second with a very high mail voting turnout.

        A few other states, linked above, also allow "no excuse" absentee voting. Thanks to Oregon, which has shown high voter participating and no discernible fraud, the expectation is that states will gradually all go to voting via mail. (very, very, very gradually. Right now states seem to be on a fraud hunting kick, but can't seem t
    • Here in America, that'd be a significan percentage of the people who bother to vote at all.

      Actually, it'd probably be pretty neat if people could access a website with their cell phones to vote. Send a huge SMS message wave, and see all those kids actually bother to vote.
    • From the article, and the summary... "Fewer than 10,000 people, or 1 percent of registered voters, participated *online* in elections for mayors and city councils across the country" (stars added by me)

      The vote wasn't exclusively online. Everyone else who voted did it the normal way- this just expands the options for casting your vote.
    • I wonder what would have had to happen for it to be considered a failure.

      A failure would be if a percentage of their elderly voted for Pat Buchanan.

    • I'm pretty sure they'd consider it a failure if it got a 2000% turnout.
  • by kiore (734594) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @07:49PM (#13822581) Homepage Journal
    An unprecedented write-in vote by internet users sends Kevin Mitnick to the Whitehouse.
  • by easterlingman (889205) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @07:50PM (#13822586)
    Were that to happen in the United States we'd get 500 million votes for Senator Linus Torvalds..
  • Privacy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zoloto (586738) * on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @07:51PM (#13822594)
    To cast an online ballot, voters need a special ID card, a $24 device that reads the card and a computer with Internet access. About 80 percent of Estonian voters have the ID cards, which have been used since 2002 for online access to bank accounts and tax records.

    Election committee officials said the ID card system had proved effective and reliable and dismissed any security concerns with using it for the online ballot.


    Information is sparse, but does anyone know if votes were linked to who voted for what? And what kind of proof can we find that voting a particular way won't involve retaliation...? I'd like this in the USA, but I'm unsure /adjusts tin-foil hat
    • Re:Privacy? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chris Burke (6130)
      Information is sparse, but does anyone know if votes were linked to who voted for what?

      Do you mean are they supposed to be, or if they can be? I'm assuming they aren't supposed to be, but without a doubt they can be. The cards are used "for online access to bank accounts and tax record", so they clearly identify the user, which would be required to prevent duplicate voting, and thus they know who you are when you access the system. I'm sure they claim that they don't associate the user with the subseque
      • Re:Privacy? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by QuantumG (50515)
        There are cryptographic solutions to this problem. Off the top of my head I can't think of a system that would work, but you can be sure there are many possibilities. All you have to do is seperate identity from authorization and then provide your vote. i.e., you need authorization to vote, and you need to identify yourself to get authorization, but it can be cryptographically shown that you can't tie the authorization token to the identity.
        • You also need a system that will allow invalidation of votes, and an inability to prove how you voted after the election.

          This way when your boss asks you to vote a certain way on the job you can go ahead and do so, knowing you can change your vote later. And the next day you can't prove you voted one way or another so the boss is none the wiser.

          You think big corporations control congress now? Wait until they literally hold tens of thousands of actual votes, and the ability to pay people for their votes (c
        • Off the top of my head I can't think of a system that would work, but you can be sure there are many possibilities. All you have to do is seperate identity from authorization and then provide your vote. i.e., you need authorization to vote, and you need to identify yourself to get authorization, but it can be cryptographically shown that you can't tie the authorization token to the identity.

          Of course it CAN be done. Problem is, the people who would be trusted to do it would be the same who would benefit mo
          • Bah, it should be an open source solution which anyone can inspect and prove to themselves that it is only implementing an algorithm that is cryptographical proven to guarentee their privacy. As for maintaining and running the servers, that's no more difficult to manage than ensuring the votes are counted correctly (i.e., the downfall of most democratic processes).
        • Um... "All you have to do is seperate identity from authorization"? How do you prevent them from knowing your identity and what authorization token they sent you at the same time, if they're the ones sending and receiving and decrypting all your packets? It's cheating to require that they run specific code themselves -- remember, the whole point is that we are assuming they are duplicitous.

          I'm pretty suspicious of any form of security that claims "Bob sends Alice a message which is kept secret from Alice
          • There's nonsymetric encryption ways to do it. As I said, my little brain can't fathom a way to do it but I know there are many cryptographically secure e-voting systems. In fact, entering those last 4 words into Google directed me to this PDF which describes the state of the art of e-voting [instore.gr]. Enjoy.
          • Re:Privacy? (Score:2, Informative)

            by alvarl (729745)
            As an Estonian e-voter I have some things to add ;) There is a general document [www.vvk.ee] on the process that also covers the storage of votes and identity management. Basically, the (anonymous) vote is encrypted and stored in an envelope bearing the voter's ID. So you can later change your vote and your vote can be discarded if you decide to do it the old way. However, the keys used to encrypt the votes are generated by a hardware crypto-server. To access the private keys needed to decrypt the votes, 4 of 6 smartca
    • Re:Privacy? (Score:4, Informative)

      by frn123 (242374) <spam@@@imelaps...ee> on Wednesday October 19, 2005 @03:58AM (#13824708)
      Find out it at http://www.vvk.ee/ [www.vvk.ee]
      Its the official Vabariigi valimiskomision (National Electoral Commitee) page.
      There is even an english section.
    • And what kind of proof can we find that voting a particular way won't involve retaliation...? I'd like this in the USA, but I'm unsure /adjusts tin-foil hat

      I'm not sure how it is stateside, but here in the UK the elections are supposed to be anonymous. They aren't however. Each polling card has a unique number that is noted on the voter roll. Tracking back the votes would be easy. I once asked them about this at a polling station and they look at me as though I was actually wearing a tinfoil hat!

  • Because you still have to validate in PERSON that you are who you say you are. Simply put, our country must make sure no one else votes are your behalf.
  • I actually wasn't /that/ surprised that Estonia has such an internet-savvy political system. Estonia was one of the first countries to break away from the USSR (along with Latvia and Lithuania) as a result of the "Singing Revolution."
  • by ln -sf head ass (585724) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @08:06PM (#13822715)
    . . . downplayed reports of a test round of balloting in which tabulations resulted in George W. Bush as the winner of the election for Prime Minister of Estonia.
  • by El Cabri (13930) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @08:07PM (#13822722) Journal
    Voting over the internet, or any kind of distance voting for that matter, violates a very basic premise of the democratic process : that each vote is guaranteed to belong to the one in the name of whom it is cast. There is no guarantee with remote voting that the voter has not sold her vote, or that no pressure has been exercised on her.

    Voting should consist in having people go completely alone in isolated booths. A vote on a country's government is not an internet poll.

    • I don't know where you vote. But where I vote the identification process is: I say my name and I sign the voter roll and get a ballot. There is no checking of ID. There is no verifing the signature.
    • So you're against absentee ballots? That excludes many elderly, and a huge portion of the armed services. Oh, and anyone who's scheduled to work for the duration that the polls are open. Like me, this past presidential election. I made my voice heard through an absentee ballot provided by my township.

      And how can you verify that an absentee ballot was made without undue influence?
      • Proxies can be used for absentee ballots, with a limited number of proxy votes per person (one or two). And polls are held on Sundays in most countries, and the law can guarantee for those who work to have the opportunity to take time off.
      • Oh, and anyone who's scheduled to work for the duration that the polls are open.

        I can't speak for anyplace else, but here in California your employer has to give you time off to visit the polls if your unable to get there any other way. They're open from 8 AM to 8 PM, but if you're really stuck, you can always get time off for long enough to get there and back. I'd not be surprised if it were part of the Federal Election Code, but don't know.

    • by raikje (806968)
      there is no guarantee with any kind of voting that the vote has not been bought - the only difference with distance voting is that people can look over your shoulder to check you vote the way you're paid to.

      however, the estonian system has several interesting measures to combat this. you can vote online as many times as you like - only your last vote will count. so once the mobster has left, you just vote again. also a paper ballot takes supremacy over an internet ballot, so voting in person in a secret
  • by No2Gates (239823)
    Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, on hearing of the news about Estonia's good fortune utilizing Linux for their successful voting, purchased the country. The voting is now nullified with the purchase, however all citizens who voted will be given discount coupons on purchases of any Microsoft product.
  • Direct Democracy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lawpoop (604919) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @08:10PM (#13822743) Homepage Journal
    I see this and future use of internet voting as steps toward direct democracy. I predict that within this century, some countries will use direct democracy [wikipedia.org] as the legislative body on the local and regional level. Direct Democracy is where citizens can directly propose and vote on legislation, making representatives redundant.

    When democracy was first proposed, it was long argued by the elite that peasants were not smart enough to rule themselves; they needed kings to keep society from collapsing. Even the first democracies were collections of wealthy land-owning males -- almost 90% of the population, including women, slaves, and peasants, were not enfranchised into the government. Well, those naysayers were wrong, and commoners are perfectly capable of running representational democracies.

    The thing is, representatives are a compromise anyways. In days when farmers worked 14 hour days 6 days a week, no one had the time to travel meet up with everyone else to discuss politics. The American legal system is based on how long it takes a person travelling on horseback to transmit information.

    Now with the advent of the internet and other communication technologies, representatives are redundant. We could propose and vote on laws ourselves, over the internet. Problems such as authentication and verification have been solved in various communication systems. As soon as the general public gets the hang of internet discussions, people will see direct democracy as a reasonable alternative to representational democracy. This could happen within a generation or two.

    Of course, current politicians will resist direct democracy, because it puts them out of their incredibly powerful positions.
    • by bigg_nate (769185) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @08:26PM (#13822848)
      The California proposition system is essentially direct democracy, and IMO it's a disaster. People aren't lawyers, and they aren't economists -- they simply don't have the skills to determine if a given law is good or not. This means we end up with ridiculous laws that sound good in a 4-word summary, like three strikes (tough on crime -- must be good!) and frozen property taxes (lower taxes -- must be good!). Additionally, as the battle over Native American casinos has shown, the public isn't any harder to buy than a politician.

      Direct democracy might work at an extremely local level, but the general public simply does not have the necessary knowledge to participate in large-scale direct democracy.

      • Please mod the parent comment up.

        People who have studied the American Constitution and the ideas upon which it was founded would recognize this debate as "Tyranny of the Majority." In essence, the founding fathers knew that the vast majority of the population would not have the necessary knowledge and skill to successfully judge laws. That is why they purposely instituted a series of checks and balances within a representative democracy.

        Direct democracy seems like a wonderful idea in theory, but as w

        • "People who have studied the American Constitution and the ideas upon which it was founded would recognize this debate as "Tyranny of the Majority." In essence, the founding fathers knew that the vast majority of the population would not have the necessary knowledge and skill to successfully judge laws. That is why they purposely instituted a series of checks and balances within a representative democracy."

          You obviously have not studied the American Constitution, or you have not understood what you read. T
      • by lawpoop (604919) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @08:47PM (#13822986) Homepage Journal
        As in my comment above, people said commoners weren't smart enough to rule themselves through representational democracy, thus they needed kings and royalty to rule them. It's a tired argument.

        However, you are right. People aren't lawyers, but nonetheless they are expected to follow the law to the letter. Try using this as an excuse in court: "But Your Honor! I'm not a lawyer! How could I be expected to follow the law when I can't even understand it? Why, I haven't even read it!" If people are smart enough to be expected to follow the law, they are smart enough to propose and vote on law. People are smart enough to do all of the above.

        If direct democracy is implemented in any serious manner, people will become familiar enough with the law to do it well. You would study it in civics class in high school. You would talk about it over dinner just like you do other subjects. People are smart enough to finance their homes, vehicles, and education; they are smart enough to run their own businesses, and they are smart enough to follow the law in everyday life. They are smart enough to recognize right and wrong and are fully capable of proposing and arguing rules over the internet.
        • People are smart enough to finance their homes, vehicles, and education; they are smart enough to run their own businesses, and they are smart enough to follow the law in everyday life.

          That's a good one. In reality, huge numbers of people aren't smart enough to do any of the things you mention, and a tiny fraction are smart enough to do all of them. If "people" were as smart as you suppose, we would live in a utopia filled with well educated, wealthy, upstanding entrepeneurs. But we don't do we?

          The fact
          • "If "people" were as smart as you suppose, we would live in a utopia filled with well educated, wealthy, upstanding entrepeneurs. But we don't do we?"

            I didn't say they were geniuses, I just said they were smart enough. Big difference.

            "Your suggestion that if we deployed direct democracy, the "people" would grow into it and flourish with new found power is reminiscent of the father who thinks he can teach his badu to swim by dumping him in the deep end. The people don't want to govern themselves, they can'
        • If people are smart enough to be expected to follow the law, they are smart enough to propose and vote on law. People are smart enough to do all of the above. People are smart enough to finance their homes, vehicles, and education; they are smart enough to run their own businesses, and they are smart enough to follow the law in everyday life.

          What are you talking about? They're not even smart enough to elect someone coherent [about.com].

          The kinds of skills that get you by in life aren't necessarily the kinds of skills
        • If direct democracy is implemented in the USA, you better be welcoming your creationist [com.com], freedom oppressing [msn.com] overlords.
        • Exactly. The absolute last people who should be writing law are lawyers. Not only will they put all kinds of obscure jargon (allegedly to clarify things) but it is also an extreme conflict of interest. Lawyers make their money by serving as advocates on different sides of disputes over various laws.* They have a vested interest in increasing both the number and complexity of laws, thus justifying their existance as advocates. They have no particular interest however in writing good law. only the quant
        • Note that from a libertarian perspective having just any "democracy" is not enough, and at the same time may be too much. Democracy can be tyranny of the majority. The power that a democracy may wield must be limited.

          Regardless of democracy, and according to libertarian ideals, everybody should have sovereignty over his personal matters. You should have sovereignty over your body (drugs, abortion), your possessions, your income (taxes are dubious), and your free contracts with sellers, buyers, employers and
      • Not only that, but the prop system is designed to fail. I just voted (absentee naturally). We get a ballot, instructions, and booklet about the props. Looking at the ballot you have no idea if the proposal is good or not. There just isn't enough space to cover the points of the prop. So you look in the booklet... two hours of reading the booklet later I'm not even sure what the fuck I would want! It basically amounts to trying to parse some terribly terse budgetary stuff I don't comprehend or trying t
    • by dubl-u (51156)
      . Direct Democracy is where citizens can directly propose and vote on legislation, making representatives redundant.

      If they do that, I'll up and move to a republic.

      Living in California, known for its frequent use of direct democracy via ballot initiatives, it's obvious to me that more direct democracy would not improve things. There are a whole host of reasons, but let's pick two:

      First, modern issues are complex, and most voters aren't willing to put in the time to study things. I'm on the high end of the
      • I think most of your criticisms are due to the fact that direct democracy is rather new. People made the same arguments about democracy in the 1700s and they were right -- democracy was messy, people didn't understand it, and it didn't work. It took the United States 20 years to go from the Articles of Confederacy to the Constitution. Talk about not having your act together!

        So you're not smart enough to understand current legislation in order to vote on it. Well, after it is passed by your representative,
        • If you don't know how to write software, how can you be expected to use it?

          If you don't know how to build a car, how can you be expected to drive it?

          If you don't know how to write music, how can you be expected to appreciate it?

          I don't think your reasoning stands.
          • Those are false analogies. Law is different than a car -- a car is designed with a user interface that hides more complex systems so that the user doesn't have to know about them. With law, there is no 'user interface'. The text is the interface itself. You have to be able to understand it in order to follow it. You may not understand it to the letter, but you at least have to get the gist. If you don't really understand the law, you can't really follow it. A law is a generalization, and in order to follow
    • tamper with. Corruption is the end of every good governing system.
  • by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @08:15PM (#13822768)
    Estonian authorities have confirmed that the e-voting was a complete success and their faith in this 21st century solution was completely justified.

    "It was flawless", the Chief Election Commissioner said, and in apparent attempt to gloat over his critics, who were loudly warning of problems, he added: "And it proves that contrary to what those feeble Doomsayers were saying, we should not fear new technology, we should embrace it because it is new, shiny and made in America!".

    In related news, some confusion persists of the proper procedure of swearing the new Estonian President, Barney "The Pink" Dinosaur, and his vice-president Wet Noodle, both of the party "All Your Base Belong To Us". Additional complications for the traditionalists is the suprising new discoverery at the polls that apparently most Estonians turned out to be of the Jedi religion.

  • At first I thought it said Elbonia successfully had internet voting. I was actually amazed that the pointy-haired boss didn't manage to screw it all up and I eagerly awaited the cartoon panels that detailed Dilbert's success in deploying the systems...

    Then I re-read the /. post...

    Oh, Estonia, you mean it happened in the real world? Bah, no big deal.
  • Paperless voting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sicking (589500) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @09:42PM (#13823321)
    How can this be any better then a paperless voting mashine that has gotten a lot of bad press in here lately? The fact that it is based on linux doesn't help one bit unless people can actually verify what code are running on the servers during the election. Blackbox voting is blackbox voting, no matter what anyone claims is in the box.
  • Complications like fraud will be worked out in time. Instead of downplaying internet voting as something that is not possible we should be looking at what's needs to be done to make it happen...pointing out the obvious here on an internet discussion but oh well.
  • The success of an e-vote is hard to verify, and a poorly designed system - like many of those used in the US - makes it fairly trivial to alter even a presidential election through tampering. With no far reaching conspiracies required either, just a few key municipalities in Ohio would need to manipulated. This would be ridiculously easy for a few corrupt local election officials, who through diebold's interface can alter tallies without an audit log. This is a built in feature for making "corrections" and
  • Did the candidates get to nominate scrutineers to monitor the election process, and what methods were those scrutineers able to employ?
  • by austad (22163)
    Does anyone have any info on how the verified the identity of the voter? How did they ensure the client was who he says he was?

    I'm not being critical of them at all, I'm just curious how they ensured there was no fraud, either by people lying or by MITM attacks.
  • Despite the concerns with fraud I think a system like Estonias could be much safer than regular voting. By requiring the use of smart cards and computer readers they avoid much of the problems that people worry about with internet voting. With a good challenge response protocol and a secure smart-card design the system could really verify that whoever was voting did posess the smart card. Of course smart cards can be stolen but if you include a password or other personal question you can make that diffic
  • ---and even if they do have some idea today, they won't when they crank up the numbers.

    With electronic voting, the ballots are invisible. Nobody can be assured their ballot tallied is the same as their ballot cast. Period, end of story.

    If they tag the votes to the voters, they could audit to double check things, but that's a big problem too. You can't have a free will if those in charge know what your choices were. That's why we don't have votes tied to voters here. Our founders knew better.

    Without being able to personally identify the votes cast to the voters, they cannot be assured the system actually honored the voters intent. Open Source, closed source does not matter.

    It's the form the vote is recorded in that matters. Nobody can see electrons and other subtle physical things used to record machine useable voting records and that's the problem because it forces the people to vote by proxy. Where there is a proxy, manupulation of the process is going to happen. That's just how we are.

    If the votes are stored on physical media, then the results of the election can be known and trusted. Also, the act of indicating your voter intent and making the record is one an the same. --No proxy in most cases, save those goofy machines with punches. The voter knows the record they placed on the ballot and can walk away knowing their vote is correct.

    When it comes time for counting, machines can read the human made records and humans can watch that happen. Other humans can check the records and audit the machines. If it's all nuts, lots of humans can watch each other count all the ballots...

    As for this direct democracy crap, it's just a smoke screen. Oooh our leaders won't want to hear what we have to say. Bull shit. The electronic machines mean they don't actually have to, not the other way around!

    What better way to devalue the democratic process. Make it easy and quick. Fewer expectations that way, and it's supposedly cheaper too!

    Want an informed and active population that actually self-governs? Put the process in their hands, not some corporation or other exclusive club. There are always plenty of people able to help run the election, we don't need the machines and never will.

    These poor fuckers are going to watch their democracy evaporate one machine at a time. Watch that nation and see if it runs significantly different in the near term. When the people are no longer a check on their own government, things will change for the worse.

    Look at the USA for clear evidence of that.

    30 percent of our national vote was cast with invisible ballots. We have no fucking idea who won '04, only who says they won.

  • ...and all I can say that I'm proud as IT specialist, and also as someone who has to work/live and communicate with them as brother country. I'm from Latvia and there have been times and notions (and some of them still appears) that we don't care about each other as nations. It is not so, I think. Yeah, Latvians usually make silly jokes about slowness and stupidness of Estonians, however, in true life, Estonia is quite ahead in many fields like country (so our reaction is simple, pure jelousy.). But in very

How many hardware guys does it take to change a light bulb? "Well the diagnostics say it's fine buddy, so it's a software problem."

Working...