PBS recently ran a segment devoted to online voting. It began by telling the compelling story of West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and her bold commitment to providing access to overseas voters. Unfortunately the piece then made the typical mistake of treating opponents as technical experts, while never interviewing the real technical experts. This is a common media treatment of the issue.
The piece also ended in a very typical way:
MILES O’BRIEN: “No one wants to disenfranchise the people who take the real shots for our country, but a rush to bring our voting online might invite another kind of national security threat”.
Ah yes, the ole “Don’t Rush” trick.
Mr. O’Brien, I have one simple question for you. Who’s rushing?
Read or watch any coverage of the online voting debate and you will find the opponents always making the same plea.
“Online voting isn’t viable yet. The Internet is too dangerous. The challenges that face online voting are too difficult to overcome at this time. Don’t let proponents of online voting RUSH us into it”
Online voting detractors have been warning us to not rush into online voting for fifteen years, and for the most part they have had their way here in the United States. We most certainly aren’t rushing into widespread use of online voting. We haven’t even been crawling.
It does seem like I am always talking about the opponents of online voting, doesn’t it? I am, and for good reason. As I said in a recent post, “Online Voting – The Conversation“, I believe the framing of the discussion about online voting in the United States will decide its fate. The opponents have been controlling that framing for so long that, until and unless the framing changes, we will never have online voting in this country.
When I started this blog it was clear to me that I had to do more than just point out statistics about the success of online voting around the world and in the private sector. I must also point out where the opposition exists. I must point out who they are and what their agendas are. Otherwise nothing will change.
So why has the “don’t rush into it” strategy been so effective for the detractors? It has worked for several reasons.
Primarily opponents of online voting are fear-mongers who play on security concerns. All activity that takes place online is subject to concerns about security. When it comes to online banking, ecommerce, E-tax filing, or even all the ways the military depend on the internet, security issues have been addressed and dealt with. There is nothing wrong with having concerns about security. Addressing concerns produces better outcomes.
Indeed, developers and engineering teams with cybersecurity specialists who have created the cutting edge online voting systems in use today around the world have overcome security concerns just as their counterparts who develop other online systems.
But opponents of online voting don’t really want to address concerns. They use concerns as a tool to play on fear.
By warning us that we are “rushing” into online voting, opponents imply that we are not adequately addressing cybersecurity concerns. Curiously, these folk who are so “worried” about security issues never seem to want more resources devoted to research and development to address these concerns. No, the detractors have a simple position: Be afraid, don’t rush, and keep voting on paper. Forever.
Recently on the “Midday with Dan Rodricks Show” I debated Avi Rubin, a longtime opponent of digital voting. When asked to respond to the fact that online voting is being used in elections around the world with great success, his response was typical of all prominent detractors. “Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s right”. Aside from being an extremely insulting and condescending statement toward other developed nations, it is also an example of another reason why the “Don’t Rush” strategy works for Avi and his friends. They successfully imply that there is a growing push for online voting by naive fools (like me) who don’t understand the security issues (like they do). It is a classic tactic.
FACT: There is NO RUSH toward online voting in the United States. The progress has stalled for over a decade and one of the reasons is the “Don’t Rush” mantra of the fear-mongers.
This myth, like many regarding digital voting, MUST be dispelled. We must shine the lights of hope and truth on these myths and those who perpetuate them.