Electric Voting From Home Via Internet

Vote for your candidate from home via the Internet? Some of you are undoubtedly thinking "sounds great!" while others are muttering "security nightmare!" Either way, the technology is here.

The 2000 Arizona Democratic primary was the first binding election that offered binding election that offered online voting; 39,942 voters chose to use the Internet to vote online (41% of the total votes cast). Michigan Democrats did the same thing in 2004 with a similar proportion of online votes.

Estonia is one of a handful of countries that has run test elections online; it will be the first country to offer nationwide elections in 2007. The country's future will be determined online.

Electronic voting has an interesting history. The first systems to tabulate selections from a networked set of terminals was created in 1970. Buckminster Fuller actually wrote an essay about "electrified voting" in 1971.

A fictional account of electronic voting offered on a nationwide datanet is offered in John Brunner's prescient 1975 novel The Shockwave Rider:

From 0700 local until 1900 every veephone on the continent would display, over and over, two propositions, accompanied by a spoken version for the benefit of the illiterate. Most would be in English, but some would be in Spanish, some in Amerind languages, some in Chinese ... the proportions being based on the latest continental census. After each repetition would follow a pause, during which any adult could punch into the phone his or her code, followed by a "yes" or "no."
(Read more about electronic voting)

Skeptics offer many sensible objections:

  • General purpose PCs are inherently insecure and vulnerable to viruses and other attacks that could compromise votes without detection.
  • Denial of service attacks could disenfranchise voters.
  • Database hacks could change vote tallies.
  • Putting voting into the home would destroy poll-booth privacy, exposing voters to intimidation and bribery.
In the novel, complete and incorruptible transparency was an essential condition for proceding with the electronic plebiscite.

Read more in Wired.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/15/2006)

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