E-voting could have helped

If Florida citizens had voted via the Internet in the 2000 presidential

elections, the counts would have been faster and more accurate, according

to several experts in the field.

But full-scale Internet voting is still several years away because issues

of security, privacy, voter authentication and coercion need to be addressed,

they said during a session called "The Future of Internet Voting" at the

National Civic League's annual conference Nov. 10.

"What this election will do is a give a real push to alternate ways

to secure mechanically safe and quick voting," said attorney Trevor Potter,

a former chairman and member of the Federal Election Commission and former

adviser to Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign.

Potter said the problems in Florida's vote count for the presidential

election will accelerate the call for Internet voting "a lot faster than

probably we can cope with." Several Florida counties are in the midst of

a recount, which will decide the presidency between Texas Gov. George W.

Bush and Vice President Al Gore. Fewer than 1,000 votes separate the two

in the state.

In the Nov. 7 election, nonbinding Internet voting was conducted in

six states, including Arizona and California, and U.S. military personnel

in the country and overseas cast about 85 live votes. Voters and election

officials deemed the experiment a success.

Internet voting would eliminate problems such as voting twice and would

tabulate the counts quicker, said Mark Strama, vice president of governmental

affairs for the Garden City, N.Y.-based Election.com, a private company

that designs and manages elections via the Internet. Strama said Internet

voting could be phased in incrementally at the local level once security

and privacy concerns have been resolved.

He also said Internet voting could be conducted in polling places, but

citizens would rather vote from home. "With respect to remote voting, clearly

it is the desire of the American people," he said.

Richard Green, chairman and co-founder of Bellevue, Wash.-based VoteHere

Inc., another Internet voting company, said a step-by-step approach and

a full debate are needed before the system can move forward. He said he

also believed Internet voting would increase voter turnout, especially among

young people who have grown up with technology.

"We do agree apathy is the primary factor here," he said. "Voting from

home will make a difference in turnout."

Richard Schum of the Internet Policy Institute said Internet voting

would likely operate alongside conventional voting systems in the short

term before replacing the current systems. He added that Internet voting

will save money in the long term.

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