Don’t chuck out the pencil just yet

Ronny Cook writes: Re. “It’s time to vote online” (yesterday). Adam Schwab’s paeon in favour of online voting misses a few critical points, chiefly: while I may be safe, my vote is not. Electronic voting has a long and infamous history.

While a single vote is unlikely to sway an election, the software systems that would handle the vote handle millions of them, and in so doing affect a balance of power worth billions (one way or another) to many parties. The people who write these systems, and the people who run the information networks used by them, are not all faultless paragons of honesty. They can be corrupted – or hackers with a more dubious agenda can modify the systems in question.

Our current system is expensive, inconvenient and awkward. However, it has human beings watching the process at every point – usually multiple human beings to watch out for fraud. The only individuals with enough power to affect the overall result are those who collate the final results, and with numbers published for every polling location, the people who check the votes in the first place can call out any obvious inconsistencies.

An electronic voting system (particularly an online one) lacks these checks and balances and is open to enormous abuse. Designing around these problems has diverted the attention of people much smarter than you or I, so far without a trustworthy result. Here’s hoping for many election-day sausage sizzles to come.

On human trafficking

Joe Boswell writes: Re. “Thailand’s human trafficking industry is Australia’s problem” (yesterday).

Michael Sainsbury wrote about the annual Trafficking in Persons reports from the US State Department:

The reports used what was basically a four-tiered system to rank countries on their effectiveness in tackling human trafficking and slavery: three “tiers” (the higher the tier, the worse a country’s rank) and then a tier 2 “watch list”.

Under US law, tier 3 status could trigger non-trade related sanctions, which could lead to restrictions on US foreign assistance. Tier 3 countries could also be denied access to global financial institutions such as the World Bank.

While Australia sits with most other Western nations on the top tier (tier 1)…

The top tier is presumably the same as the highest tier and therefore the worst rank; that is, Australia is one of the least effective countries in the world at tackling human trafficking, a disgraceful finding. Yet Thailand desperately wants to move from the best rank, because the USA punishes those who are most effective at tackling trafficking.

This is a very baffling system.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey