Election Day winner: The Net
- By William Matthews
- Nov 12, 2000
Vice President 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 voting.
Voters in six states cast ballots via 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 South Carolina's election commission headquarters
in Columbia to ensure security and privacy for military ballots, Taylor
"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 do so.
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 that 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 Inc., the Internet voting company
that ran the experiment.
"We were very impressed with it," said Yvonne Reed, a spokeswoman for
Maricopa County, Ariz.
"People really liked it," said 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, Calif., 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.