'Rocking the vote' is worth the effort
- By John Monroe
- Sep 04, 2000
Internet voting is a no-show this election season, but it looms large in
our future all the same.
The reason is simple: poor voter turnout. Online voting will not cure
voter apathy, but some political experts say that more people would choose
to vote if it were more convenient.
Most opponents do not question that premise, but they tend to focus
on the pitfalls. The Internet, already rampant with viruses and malicious
hackers, may open the door to election fraud, possibly on a very large scale.
Online voting could also skew election results, bringing in a lot of
young, white, middle-class voters, who generally have Internet access, while
elderly, minority and poor voters could be left out.
But these arguments, while compelling, should not derail online voting.
Rather, election officials should turn those pitfalls into "action items,"
to be addressed as part of online voting initiatives.
The technological challenges — How do you secure votes cast online
and protect online voting systems? — are serious but, given time, not insurmountable.
Nearly every sector of the U.S. economy is pouring money into e-commerce
applications, and the same technology being developed to secure online
transactions can apply to online voting.
The key issue, of course, is trust, in economics and politics. With
a large volume of business already being conducted electronically, our economy
would collapse if people lost trust in the security of those transactions.
But that trust is there, despite the embryonic state of information security
The potential imbalance in voter turnout is a thornier issue. Communities
across the country are undertaking efforts to close the underlying digital
divide, but there's no telling yet when or if these efforts will succeed.
As part of any Internet voting initiative, election officials must put
together substantial programs designed to increase the turnout among communities
at the risk of having their voting power diluted.
Indeed, it's possible that Internet voting could become the impetus
for "Rock the Vote"-like projects that otherwise would never occur, increasing
overall participation in voting, whether done electronically or not.
Clearly, a lot of work is required to make Internet voting a reality.
And it's something of a gamble, because no one is certain if it will increase
Perhaps Internet voting might have only a minimal impact on voter turnout
in the beginning, but, as seen with e-commerce, will increase as time goes
on and people become comfortable with the idea.
But an engaged electorate is one of the underpinnings of our political
system. If the Internet can bolster that system, it's worth whatever it