Internet voting put to the test
- By William Matthews
- Oct 13, 2000
While millions of voters nationwide decide the futures of Al Gore and George
W. Bush on Nov. 7, a relative handful in Arizona, California and at military
bases may decide the future of Internet voting.
Voters from a precinct near Phoenix, from four precincts in California
and from military bases in the United States and overseas will test Internet
voting for the first time in a presidential election. The test results could
lead to much more widespread Internet voting in 2002, said Alfie Charles,
chairman of California's Internet Voting Task Force.
In Arizona and California, the tests won't involve voting from home
or work over personal computers — that's still years in the future, said
Yvonne Reed, spokeswoman for Maricopa County, Ariz.
For military voters, however, the future is here. About 350 military
personnel will be able to use computers in their homes, offices or at U.S.
embassies abroad to file encrypted ballots to election officials in five
Only the military Internet votes will count. The Internet ballots in
Arizona and California are for test purposes only.
When the 932 registered voters of Maricopa County's Fern precinct go
to their polling places, they will vote on standard machines. Then they
will be offered the chance to try out a nonbinding ballot using a computer
connected to the Internet.
In California, voters will be able to cast nonbinding votes over the
Internet in precincts in San Diego, Sacramento and two counties near San
Voting officials will analyze the security of votes cast over the Internet
and test voter comfort with Internet voting systems, Charles said.
For county officials who manage elections, the Internet promises to
cut costs by eliminating the expense of printing ballots. It can also save
time and money by making vote tabulation almost instantaneous, he said.
The cost of elections, which now runs $3 to $5 per voter, could be cut substantially.
In the short term, however, Internet voting is likely to cost more than
it saves, warns Doug Lewis, director of the Election Center, a Houston-based
organization that tracks developments in election technologies. Localities
will have to buy voting system servers and sophisticated routing systems
"with lots of redundancy to ensure people don't get disenfranchised," Lewis