[E-voting] E-voting and the Olympics

Michael McMahon michael at hexmedia.com
Tue Oct 20 21:56:30 IST 2009


There hasn't been much traffic on this list for a while. I thought I'd toss
this one out there, to see what people think.

I was listening to the radio last weekend and heard a fascinating interview
with Pat Hickey, Ireland's member of the International Olympic Committee.
One thing he mentioned which I have to say raised my eye-brows, was the 
procedure for selecting the host city for the 2016 Olympics. He didn't 
much detail, but he did say it was an electronic voting system, and 
the vote is a secret ballot, where the voters (IOC members) are expected 
to vote on
a personal basis (ie. not representing anyone) and they are expected to 
keep their
vote secret.

When you consider the enormous amounts of money and prestige at stake, 
it strikes
me this type of system could be very prone to cheating, by whoever 
controls or has some
influence over the voting system.

You'd have to wonder also why bother with e-voting? The selection system 
is quite straightforward
where multiple rounds are held. The city receiving the fewest votes in 
each round
is eliminated, and the voting continues until one city is left. Paper 
ballot voting
would obviously be more transparent, and beyond reproach, if the votes 
were cast
and counted, if not in public, at least in the presence of the voters. 
As we all know,
any unverifiable (and this appears to be an unverifiable) e-voting 
system can be
rigged to produce any result that the owners of the system choose. Even 
if the IOC
executive aren't rigging the selection, then how can they be sure that 
else (such as the supplier of their voting system) isn't?

Historically, the Olympics selection process has been prone to 
corruption. Most recently,
the selection of Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter games was mired in a 
bribery scandal.
Granted, the process has been cleaned up to reduce the potential for 
but it seems extraordinary to me that candidate cities would make the 
huge investment
(typically $40 million) only to see the selection being made by such an 
opaque and
potentially dodgy system.



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