Virginia holding mock election on Internet

The largest-known mock election in Internet history will take place later this month in Virginia, when more than 5,000 high school students from 15 schools cast online ballots for the same candidates and issues their parents will consider on Election Day.

The Oct. 26 virtual election is being overseen by Kirkland, Wash.-based VoteHere.net, which will provide the software and technical expertise to manage the election, and it is being sponsored by the University of Virginia's Center for Governmental Studies and Youth Leadership Initiative.

Virginia high school students in the counties of Albermarle, Henrico, Page and Shenandoah, as well as the city of Charlottesville, are eligible to vote in the election. It is the largest virtual election the company has ever conducted and the first to incorporate more than two counties.

"The key here is the secrecy of the ballot and the integrity of the election, and our system does both," said Jim Adler, VoteHere.net's founder and chief executive officer. "You need to maintain these two often-conflicting requirements to perform [elections] in a secure way, and we do."

Each student will be given a floppy disk by a poll worker who authenticates students' identities. Voters will insert the disk into a poll station PC and open an Internet-based ballot. Unlike traditional voting, Internet voting does not require individuals to vote at polling stations in the districts to which they belong.

The outcome of election will be available almost immediately. VoteHere.net (www.votehere.net) will tabulate the results and make them available to the public minutes after the polls close at 4 p.m. "We did a high school election with 500 kids [in May], and the polls closed at 2:45 p.m., and the results were given over the loudspeaker at three," Adler said.

The company sponsored similar events earlier this year in Washington state and is planning additional tests in Iowa, Ohio and California by the end of the year.

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