[E-voting] E-voting and Olympics (resend)

Michael McMahon michael at hexmedia.com
Tue Oct 20 22:15:30 IST 2009

(sigh. resending that last message, reformatted ..)


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 voting procedure for selecting the host city
for the 2016 Olympics. He didn't provide much detail,
but he did say it was an electronic voting system, and interestingly
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 
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 someone 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 bribery, 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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