With attack-ads blaring and social media abuzz, millions of Americans dutifully flocked from far and wide to their polling station last Tuesday to participate in the national election. However, it is being increasingly suggested that this biennial ritual is becoming an anachronism in today’s age of ever-present technology. Indeed, a handful of other countries have already employed internet voting systems and, in 2012, Alaska became the first US state to offer universal online voting. Nevertheless, concerns remain.

Proponents argue that implementing online voting could increase voter participation and make it more easily available to certain groups. Indeed, younger voters are notorious for being, as a whole, more tech-savvy, but less likely to vote than older generations. Moreover, the ability to vote online might make the ballot box more accessible for the disabled, the elderly, and rural voters. Electronic voting may also serve to make outcomes more accurate. A mock election conducted by Rice University researchers found that user errors were less common on a mobile voting system than when using traditional voting methods.

Unfortunately, many experts warn that cyber-security problems persist making secure electronic elections contemporarily problematic. As numerous US businesses have recently discovered, security breaches remain stubbornly common. Moreover, the problem would not end with designing a secure network but would also entail ensuring the integrity of user-owned devices. After conducting extensive research, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has concluded that online votes can still be manipulated without detection. In part, this problem derives from the private nature of voting making it difficult to verify that the votes received by the state match those cast by the individual. Additionally, budgetary constraints of local government make implementing robust safeguards somewhat implausible on a case-by-case basis. Moreover, problems relating to auditing and recounting electronic votes also remain unresolved.

Nevertheless, Congress has not expressly endorsed or created legislation curtailing the use of electronic voting. A majority of states already use some form of online voting for military members deployed overseas. In 2012, Alaska forged ahead and became the first US state to permit all citizens to vote electronically. However, even despite no evidence of tampering in 2012, Alaska remains the only state to permitting voters to cast ballots online. As of this election cycle, widespread use of electronic voting seems to remain a thing of the future.

 

Reed Nixon

One Response to Online Voting – The Wave of the Future?

  1. Megan McLean says:

    I will be interested to see if there are any instances of fraud or abuse in Alaska. Hopefully, the Alaskan model will help build trust in the idea of electronic voting. I am also interested to see how online voting affects voter turnout amongst low-income populations who may have more difficulty getting away from work to vote at the polls and have historically been underrepresented in elections.