Can we trust voting online?

The New Zealand government will not move ahead with plans for online voting.

Thankfully, the New Zealand government appears not to be pressing ahead with online voting — at least, for now.

An Electoral Amendment Bill was released yesterday, which improves online registration through its RealMe identification service, but nothing appears to have been said about actual online voting itself.

Voting online was always seen as one of those inevitable things as part of an e-transition, as it were, to an online world; something that we all saw as "a good thing".

But recent events have made me turn against such "progress".

Having free and fair elections are fundamental to the democratic process, but can we trust such e-ballots?

We have seen in the United States how the government can target political parties of all persuasions through the tax system, and how Republican-controlled states are working to suppress the minority vote through added restrictions.

We have also seen how governments can spy on its citizens in what was once the Land of the Free.

We have seen similar controversies in New Zealand over the abilities and rights of the government to spy on its citizens.

There are even claims that no email is safe and secret nowadays from state-sanctioned snoopers.

It might seem like tin-foil hat stuff, but how safe is your vote? Will the snoopers be able to see which way you voted? Might someone be able to change your vote without you even knowing.

Even the pioneering Swiss have such concerns, noting how a computer virus did exactly that.

Already, postal votes are open to abuse, with voter fraud rampant in certain areas. Furthermore, existing electronic technology used in the US has also been fingered for fraud.

This all confirms how there will be those seeking to use hacking or other systems to rig an online ballot. And might such online fraud be easier to commit and harder to prove?

While New Zealand does not have the voter fraud seen in other countries, it does happen, and it was heartening to hear our Justice minister stress the integrity of elections when announcing the changes.

We hear talk that online voting is needed to encourage the young to turn out and vote.

But if they cannot be bothered to get off their backsides once every three years or so, are they worthy of the vote?

It cannot be that hard to pick up a photo ID and walk down or drive to the nearest polling station, present your credentials, go into a polling booth, and mark your cross next to a candidate.