The topic of online voter-registration came up during my regular voter-registration drive last night. Since it was highlighted in today’s news, I thought that I should share some of my opinions on this matter. The EC is right in saying that online voter-registration is open to abuse.
The key issue is that of authentication. It is not easy to do identity authentication online unless we have that infrastructure set-up. However, it is not entirely impossible to do so. There are alternatives
We could insist on photo identification. So, someone who registers online would need to use a high resolution camera to take the photo of him/her holding the MyKAD. That would allow an authorised registrar to approve or reject the application and authenticate the identity manually. In this scenario, the Internet merely serves as a medium of communication between the registrar and registrant.
In fact, this method is already in use by certain OpenID service providers.
However, the better solution to the problem of voter registration would be automatic voter registration. There is no conceivable reason why this is not already the case. The National Registration Department has everyone’s information in a database. They can just easily extract out the new registrants each month and send that information to the Elections Commission.
Alternatively, we can harmonise the two systems by reducing the voting age to 18. This allows anyone who goes to renew their MyKAD to immediately fill in the voter registration form alongside. In fact, this should already be automatically done for those who change addresses. The NRD should be authorised by the EC as a registering body.
Why none of this is happening, is anybody’s guess.
Now, the idea of online voting is another whole can of worms that I do not want to discuss until adequate measures are in place. It is quite difficult to both ensure identity authentication while making a vote anonymous. You really need to trust the programmer who wrote the lines of code controlling the elections.
To those lazy asses who are brainless enough to suggest these things, sticking the word “on-line” in front of everything doesn’t solve all your problems. Just get off the couch, and go register at a post-office and vote at the designated school.