Norway Says No Way To More Electronic Voting


The Norwegian government says it will not repeat experiments with online voting. It said there wasn’t enough guarantee of security and a secret vote.

The country used online voting as an option in 12 cities and towns as an experiment in 2011 and 2013 and has now reported on the experience. In the 2013 experiment, around 38 percent of people who had the option to vote online chose to do so.

However, the government says there’s no evidence it led to an increase in voting, either across the population as a whole or in specific demographic votes. That countered a theory that online voting might attract more younger voters.

In a press release (translated by Google) the Office of Modernization said that although “there is a broad political desire to introduce Internet voting, the government has concluded that it is not appropriate to spend money and time on several attempts.”

As well as the lack of effect on turnouts, the experiments had several other problems. The encryption system was criticized as not being random enough.

Another technical problem stemmed from a deliberate design choice. Officials asked for the voting system to be set up to allow multiple votes from a voter, with only the last one counting. The idea was to reduce the problem of people being coerced to vote a particular way, in effect letting them have a do-over later on.

However, the set-up made it possible for somebody to hijack a web browser on a tablet or smartphone, cast a vote, then intercept the receipt message, leaving the legitimate voter unaware of the intrusion.

There were also a small number of people who voted online but were still able to vote in person. That wasn’t so much a technical problem as an administrative failing. The intention was that voters could do this, but the electronic vote would be discarded, something that didn’t always happen.

The report also cited two problems which related to the fundamentals of online voting rather than the specific implementation. Firstly, voters simply didn’t have (or understand) enough detail about the technology to feel confident their vote would count and be secret. Secondly, there was no way to guarantee somebody voting on their computer or mobile device was doing so without coercion or undue pressure in the same way that’s possible in a secret, in-person ballot.