Online Voting

Overview Online voting is a remote electronic voting system that allows voters to cast ballots from computers and other devices connected to the Internet. Advantages of online voting include increased voter participation, faster vote tabulation, and election cost reductions. Online voting is advantageous to the voter because it is quick and convenient. It also has the potential to make voting easier for disabled, elderly, and geographically isolated people. However, ongoing concerns over security, identification, and accuracy have prevented online voting from becoming widely used.

General Information One of the main concerns about online voting is voter fraud, which can consist of voting multiple times, generating votes from non-existent voters, or buying votes. Organizations such as www.blackboxvoting.org/  analyze the dangers and benefits of online voting.

Viruses, hackers, and the potential for digital terrorism have added to the difficulties of implementing online voting. Because of security concerns discovered by Security Peer Review Group (SPRG), outlined in this paper, the U.S. military cancelled the SERVE program (Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment) that would have allowed military personnel and overseas citizens to vote online in the 2004 presidential election. You can read about this decision at www.govexec.com.

There is some concern that online voting may change traditional voting patterns. It might disproportionately attract people of higher income that can afford computers and associated technology--a group of voters that tend to be conservative. Internet voting could also attract a flood of young, technology-savvy voters--a group that tends to support liberal causes. These new blocks of voters could greatly influence the dynamics of politics. This article from The New Atlantis contains an interesting discussion of these problems.

Not everyone is skeptical of online voting. The article "Vote in Your Underwear" by Lindsey Arent at Wired News is another report about the positive aspects of online voting.

Are you still interested in learning more about the future of online voting? If so, take a look at the book Point, Click, and Vote by R. Michael Alvarez and Thad E. Hall (Brookings Institute Press 2004) at The Brookings Bookstore.

Case Studies Online voting has been used in several elections with success. The Arizona Democratic Party, seeking to boost participation in its party caucuses, conducted the first-ever binding Internet vote in 2000. Read about this election and some of the issues that surrounded online voting at www.forbes.com/2000/01/10/feat.html.

The Republican Party used Internet voting to make it possible for its voters living in the most remote areas to cast ballots in the 2000 Republican Party Straw Poll. Internet voting services for the January 24, 2000 Alaskan Republican primary were provided by www.votehere.net/default.php.

More recently, Michigan used Internet voting to increase voter turnout for its Democratic Party presidential caucuses in 2004. Approximately 46,000 online votes were cast of the nearly 163,000 total votes. For more information, read this CNET News.com article. This Michigan election was run by a recently formed private contractor from Garden city, Michigan called Election Services Corporation.