Coercion in Context

The risk of voter coercion (voter interference, bribery, vote selling) exists when a voter can demonstrate how they have voted in a given election. It’s a difficult risk to mitigate because robust election systems have to reconcile privacy and security requirements that both guarantee the correctness of election results and the inability of voters to prove how they have voted. All voting media are susceptible to voter coercion. Mobile voting is no different in this regard.

However, before delving deeper into a discussion on the implications of secure mobile voting on voter coercion, it’s important to understand the societal measures that lead to voter interference. Ignoring these contextual dimensions allows for baseless arguments that blockchain mobile voting affords more opportunities for voter interference than traditional medium like paper voting, polling place voting, and postal voting.

This is because digitally enabled voting has historically been treated with adversarial and unsympathetic skepticism and consequently held to a higher theoretical standard than other media of voting:

‘people expect much more from electronic voting schemes than from paper based systems …’ (1).

‘Internet based voting does not introduce these problems [vote buying and coercion], but it does have the potential to exacerbate them by extending the reach and data collection abilities of an attacker’ (2).

‘voter coercion and vote buying … are highly scalable in an electronic environment’ (3,4,5,6).

However, empirically, it’s been shown that “available opportunities for voter interference vary primarily not with technological safeguards, but with cultural, political, and economic conditions that govern interactions between people within a particular society” meaning it’s less a factor of the how citizens vote and more a factor of encompassing mores of a given society. (7). The very same is true for the relationship between the secret ballot and voter interference; to say that this one instrument is responsible for the elimination of voter coercion at scale is to ignore a variety of encompassing procedural and societal factors that also reduced the opportunity for such interference.

A country’s strength and independence of electoral administration, general level of corruption, egalitarian versus hierarchical society, and state of civil society are all more indicative of the extent of voter interference than the medium through which electors vote. (8). When every medium of voting is stripped of this social context, the media are similarly prone to voter interference and the opportunities for coercion and bribery are similarly severe. Voter interference in the context of digital / remote / blockchain / mobile / e-voting is nuanced and a real concern, but should be practically considered to address the successful ways that coercion can be resisted.


Check out how Votem’s Proof of Vote ® Protocol addresses these problems


(1) Chevallier-Mames, B., Fouque, PYA., Pointcheval, D., Stern, J. and Traoré, J. (2010) ‘On Some Incompatible Properties of Voting Schemes’, in D. Chaum, M. Jakobsson, R. Rivest, P. Ryan, J. Benolah, M. Kutylowski and B. Adida (eds), Towards Trustworthy Elections, Heidelberg, Springer.

(2) Juels, A., Catalono, D. and Jakobsson, M. (2010) ‘Coercion — Resistant Electronic Elections’, in D. Chaum, M. Jakobsson, R. Rivest, P. Ryan, J. Benolah, M. Kutylowski and B. Adida (eds), Towards Trustworthy Elections, Heidelberg, Springer.

(3) Spycher, O., Koenig, R., Haenni, R. and Schläpfer (2012) ‘A New Approach towards Coercion — Resistant Remote E-Voting in Linear Time’, in G. Danezis (ed.), Financial Cryptography and Data Security, Heidelberg, Springer.

(4) Joaquim, R., Ribeiro, C. and Ferreira, P. (2010) ‘Improving Remote Voting Security with Code Voting’, in D. Chaum, M. Jakobsson, R. Rivest, P. Ryan, J. Benolah, M. Kutylowski and B. Adida (eds), Towards Trustworthy Elections, Heidelberg, Springer.

(5) Clark, J. and Hengartner, U. (2012) ‘Selections: Internet Voting with Over the Shoulder Coercion Resistance’, in G. Danezis (ed.), Financial Cryptography and Data Security, Heidelberg, Springer.

(6) Esteve, J., Goldsmith, B. and Turner, J. (2012) International Experience with EI Voting, Washington, International Foundation for Electoral Systems.

(7) Smith, Rodney (2006) Internet Voting and Voter Interference — A report prepared for the New South Wales Electoral Commission, University of Sydney.

(8) Ibid, 24.

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