Blackboxing democracy? E-voting technologies ‘in the making’

Nina Boulus, Randi Markussen

    Publikation: Konference artikel i Proceeding eller bog/rapport kapitelKonferenceabstrakt i proceedingsForskning


    The current popular uprising in the Middle East have given us the possibility to witness how technology (i.e. social media) can be used as a strong weapon for democracy. When it comes to e-voting technologies, however, it remains unclear whether these are “a bomb or a gift for democracy” (Kickbusch, 2011). The 2000 presidential election presidential in the US—where Bush was announced as a winner in spite of the flaws that were detected in the system—reminds us of the devastating consequences that these technologies may have on our democracy. E-voting technologies are imagined as having the capacity to do a wide range of things, including increasing overall voter turnout (particularly of youth), improving equality for all votes (e.g. handicap people), increasing efficiency and accuracy of the electoral process as well as reducing waiting time and costs. Such utopian, idealistic and decontextualized visions are familiar to us from the field of healthcare IT, where similar rhetoric is echoed regarding the implementation of Electronic Patient Records (EPRs). In both fields, we find that some of the visions are disputed (e.g., saving costs and increasing efficiency). The great difference, however, is that there is a general agreement that implementing EPRs is a goal that all healthcare institutions should strive to achieve. With e-voting technologies, however, we still find ambiguous messages from both politicians and scientists, expressing reservations toward procedural and technical aspects. While these technologies are welcomed in some countries, they are also band from several others. In Denmark, discussions about the possibility of introducing digital election began last year.

    This paper will draw upon a new research project which aims at investigating e-voting machines “in the making” (Latour, 1987). We will investigate the discourse surrounding these technologies and raise critical questions regarding e-voting technologies. One of the main concerns is that these devices black-box the electoral process, removing current control and accountability mechanisms conducted by humans (e.g. election officials and representatives from political parties), and making the process inaccessible for verification. This raises questions about issues of accountability and reliability of the electoral process. These concerns intensify when we hear several scientists warning us that these machines are easily hackable. In contrast to the implementation of other technologies (e.g., EPRs), with e-voting technologies mistakes cannot be compensated as these can have devastating consequences on our democracy.
    TitelDanish Association for Science and Technology Studies, Aarhus University
    Antal sider2
    StatusUdgivet - 2011
    BegivenhedDASTS Danish Association for Science and Technology Studies - 2011 Annual Conference - Aarhus, Danmark
    Varighed: 9 jun. 201110 jun. 2011


    KonferenceDASTS Danish Association for Science and Technology Studies - 2011 Annual Conference


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