So it’s polling day. You’re pumped, you’re psyched for new governance, and you’re keen to cast your ever so important ballot. But upon reaching the polling station you’re greeted by a horde – a horde of severely agitated, quite possible hungry and slightly dehydrated crowd of voters who have been waiting rather unsuccessfully for hours in a visibly disjointed line that has unfathomably woven through and around silly bends and inconspicuous pillar, only to be held in place by yellow tape lacing resembling a 7 year olds impression of how a crime scene would be cordon off. Sounds familiar? Does it now? Well you must live outside of Singapore because this is quite rare here—but elsewhere, the same is hardly true. You might be thinking to yourself now, hmm… why not try e-voting, it’ll solve this problem surely—and with campaigns being taken into the digital realm surely this isn’t too farfetched?
Indeed they aren’t. The digital era of political campaigning is not beyond us but on us – e-voting though, is some way away. Singapore’s 2010 general elections was aptly coined the social media election, for the great expanse the opposition invested into the social media scene and how it inevitably shaped the thinking an opinions of voters. Like how the 2012 American presidential elections ran, social networking platforms featured heavily in the setup of campaign proceedings and weighed in heavily on the outcome of both. Unlike the methods of traditional media before, online campaigns carried a much greater appeal because updates were instantaneous and opinions voiced by the recipients, i.e. the people or voting republic, could be voiced almost immediately, which could then garner sympathetic responses, violent objections or wide-spread support amounting to radical changes to the political system. Popular platforms include Facebook, Google+, Twitter and many more, depending on demography.
So why then hasn’t e-voting caught on like online campaigning efforts and dialogs? There are multiple reasons to that actually. While platforms for social media and social exchanges have been relatively safe for both the user and the idealist, an e-voting system poses far more threat to the integrity of the exchange than say trolls who flame political Facebook posts. Timothy of Slashdot Politics made quite a compelling argument when asked why e-voting never took off like other political driven, for the entire list be sure to check out the link left in the resources below. In short, one kink in the armor and a re-election will be in order – to make matters worse, it’s fairly easy to sabotage an online system but very hard to plug all the holes, viruses are aplenty and troublemakers are not in short supply. While physical voting requires a physical ID check and a person to blame when someone mucks it up, tracing and tracking a hacker online is a whole different ball game, and something most governing bodies, regardless of how inventive and adventurous they are in this aspect, are afraid to try. With the exception of Estonia that is.
E-voting has had its place in recent times in allowing foreign countrymen to partake in domestic elections while overseas. But while portals and platforms are aplenty when it comes to political discourses, discussions, agenda setting, selling and conspiracy theories, a safe and reliable portal for e-voting is troublingly elusive. So if you want change now, I’m sorry you’re not getting any. Try airing your grievances on a political blog and let me know how that goes.