Election Day winner: Online voting
- By William Matthews
- Nov 09, 2000
Al Gore and George W. Bush have had to wait to find out who has been elected
president, but election returns Nov. 7 pointed to one clear winner - Internet
Voters in six states cast ballots over the Internet, and the procedure
won overwhelming endorsements from voters and election officials.
Most of the votes were nonbinding ballots cast in experiments in Arizona
and California. But about 85 were live votes cast by U.S. military personnel
in an experiment that could lead to widespread use of the Internet for voting
by personnel stationed around the world.
The military voters "loved it, it was wonderful for them," said Marti
Taylor, director of information services and special projects for the South
Carolina Election Commission. About 20 members of the military who were
registered voters from South Carolina cast ballots from computers at U.S.
installations in the United States and overseas.
An Internet voting system established by the Defense Department enabled
them to receive ballots online and send encrypted votes to election officials
in South Carolina, Florida, Texas and Utah. DOD installed secure Internet
lines, routers and servers at the state election commission headquarters
in Columbia, S.C., to ensure security and privacy for military ballots,
"We had no problems at all. It worked like clockwork," she said.
As voters from the Fern precinct near Phoenix filed into Faith Lutheran
Church to cast their ballots the old-fashioned way, election officials asked
if they would also like to cast nonbinding votes over the Internet. About
half agreed to.
They were taken to an "authentication station" for identification verification
and then were given plastic "ibutton" keys that would activate the voting
computers. The keys contained voter identification data and an encryption
The keys ensured voters would receive the proper ballots and vote only
once. The encryption program converted ballots into a string of code to
ensure privacy. Once submitted, the ballots were transmitted to a data center
in Seattle for processing by VoteHere.net, the Internet voting company that
ran the experiment.
"We were very impressed with it," said Yvonne Reed spokeswoman for Maricopa
"People really liked it," reported Betsey Bayless, Arizona secretary
of state. "We think the Internet is a great alternative."
Voters expressed similar enthusiasm for Internet voting in precincts
near San Diego and Sacramento, where Votehere also conducted tests. In overwhelming
numbers, voters said they were comfortable with Internet voting and would
do it again if given the opportunity.