Americans support voting upgrades

An overwhelming majority of Americans support modernizing voting technologies, but only about a third of them endorse voting online, according to a new poll.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans responding to a telephone survey commissioned by the Information Technology Association of America (www.itaa.org) and Unisys Corp. said more modern voting machines would produce more accurate results. Furthermore, 61 percent said tax dollars should be used to upgrade such technologies.

Harris Miller, ITAA president, said that some of the momentum to reform voting technologies has been lost since the Florida recount last fall and that "no one had taken the temperature of the American people" since then.

"What the study shows is that it is a nationwide problem," he said. "It's not just confined to Palm Beach or to one particular state."

About 70 percent of respondents support programs to assist low-income communities. Miller said that the level of dissatisfaction with the current voting system is highest among those in the lowest economic strata and that voting machines are more likely to break down in inner cities. "We need to focus on the weakest link in the chain right now," he said.

The survey also showed that most Americans apparently are not comfortable with Internet voting: 39 percent supported the idea.

Miller said the general public doesn't believe that communicating and providing sensitive information via the Internet is as secure as it should be. But he pointed to a generational difference: 60 percent of those aged 18 to 24 support Internet voting, while only 20 percent of those 55 and older backed it.

While younger people are more comfortable with the Internet, he said governments and other organizations should try to engage older Americans in using the Internet for e-government and e-commerce services.

The survey also found that 90 percent of respondents would support having uniform voting systems throughout a state. But Miller said it would be "nonsensical" to mandate uniform systems in rural areas where the population is low and where paper ballots would work fine. It's in large voting precincts that people should expect reliable technology, he said.

Miller said he hoped the survey would help Capitol Hill lawmakers continue their efforts to examine the voting systems, share best practices and provide seed money to local jurisdictions for pilot projects.

The Winston Group and Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates Inc. conducted the March 5-8 survey of 1,000 Americans.

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