Voting on Your Phone?

When I saw the story “The Voting Booth in Your Pocket” (hat tip to Chapin for seeing it first) my first thought was that Mike and I wrote in our book Electronic Elections about a young woman in Los Angeles who discussed her frustration that she could bank online and do a dozen other things on her phone so why couldn’t she vote on her phone.  The second thought I had was that all of the critics of internet voting probably had their heads explode when they saw this story.

I want to take the critics side here for a second, but do so in order to make a larger critique about American technology.  One of the biggest barriers to Internet voting — and for very secure internet transactions generally in the United States — is that we do not have digital identity.  In Estonia, where they do have i-voting, they also have digital identities; when you get your government ID card (a government ID for everything, including driving that also allows for travel within the EU zone) it contains a digital identity card that you can use in combination with a password to authenticate yourself to websites.  In the US, we have no equivalent; your Facebook login is now becoming a common way to authenticate yourself to public websites (not the most secure thing around!) A secure digital login would go a long way toward making internet voting a possibility.  In the military, where people have such identities, internet voting is much more of a possibility.

It is frustrating that America, a supposed technology leader, does not have such digital identification.  States across the US are adopting voter identification laws for in person voting but there are no efforts being made to give people any type of digital identity that would facilitate electronic voting and other transactions.  In 2000, the US adopted a law that allows for digital signatures as legal signatures but there has been little or no effort to make this a reality.  Given the supposed concerns about authentication in voting, having secure digital identity would be helpful, with internet voter registration and internet voting.