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Internet Voting: Can We Make It Work?

By CSC Staff

On Tuesday, millions of Americans exercised their right to vote in the U.S. Presidential and other elections. Voters planned their schedules accordingly, giving themselves time to get to their polling places, mark their ballots for their candidates of choice, and get back to work, school, or whatever else their day might typically entail, all the while many were wondering, “Why can’t I just vote online?”

In an era when virtually any daily task can be done over the Internet, many Americans believe it is time to consider giving voters the ability to submit a ballot from their personal computers, or even mobile phones. In addition to larger voter turnouts—as voters would no longer need to find, or make time for, transportation from their homes or workplaces to their poll places—there are several ways in which online voting could be beneficial in elections.

Those in favor of online voting argue that communities would save money on expensive machinery, staffing, and security for polling locations, that there would be no more need for absentee ballots for those who are away from home on Election Day.

Opponents believe that allowing online voting would only lead to chaos. Those who oppose online voting argue that, while it may be convenient and easy, it might not be as secure as the current system of voting and could easily be corrupted. Furthermore, many voters who do not use computers would need to seek online access and technical support.

Below is an excerpt from a Washington Post article about online voting in Estonia, a small Baltic country that has been using this form of digital democracy for several years.

Online voting isn’t a far-fetched idea. Estonians have been doing it since 2005. While only 2 percent of Estonians took advantage of the system when it first came out, that number rose to 25 percent by 2011. Surveys have found that Estonians view their system as being very effective.

What’s Estonia’s secret? For one, all Estonians are issued a government ID with a scannable chip and a PIN number that gives them a unique online identity — they can use this identity to file their taxes or pay library fines or buy bus passes. That makes Internet voting workable.

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