Gartner Group: Arizona Internet vote paved way

Now that Arizona has completed the first binding election using the Internet

to cast ballots, governments at all levels should work to ensure that this

year's presidential election is the last one that will rely solely on paper

and "snail mail," according to analysts at the Gartner Group.

Despite the fact that Vice President Al Gore had already wrapped up

his party's nomination by the time the Arizona Democratic primary took place,

nearly three times as many people voted this year than did in 1996.

Despite some legal and technical glitches, that jump in turnout is largely

due to Internet voting, said Christopher Baum, vice president and research

area director for the Stamford, Conn.-based advising firm.

"The [online] election had numerous problems, including overloaded servers

and help desks, and less than one-third of online voters read the directions.

But you have to look at the results," Baum said in a Tuesday teleconference

from Gartner's Spring Symposium in San Diego.

In 1996, 12,800 people voted in the election, but on the first day of

Internet voting this year, more than 13,000 people voted online, Baum said.

"At the end of the four days of Internet voting, just under 36,000 people

had voted online, which is nearly three times the total [number] in 1996,"

Baum said.

Although the results were promising, there are still problems that need

to be worked out. People are still hesitant to use computers and might not

have access to the necessary equipment, Baum said.

Evidence of voter hesitancy to use the new technology occurred on election

day itself in Arizona, when only 4,000 of the 18,000 people who went to polling

locations chose to use online voting.

"Technology problems do occur — they are there and they are serious — and may have affected the outcome [of the election]," Baum said. "But

they can be overcome, as can the digital divide. The biggest challenges

are political, not technological."


To read more stories about online voting and digital democracy, click on the "Democracy" link in the "News by Topic" box on the left.

BY Dan Caterinicchia
April 12, 2000

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