E-voting wins backers
- By William Matthews
- Oct 30, 2001
A year ago, as Steve Katsurinis watched, ballots mailed in by military voters
from overseas were thrown "by the fistful" into the trash.
It was wrenching, Katsurinis said. As vice chairman of the Alexandria,
Va., electoral board and a voting rights lawyer, he is more accustomed to
fighting to ensure that as many voters as possible can exercise their right.
But there, in the midst of the closest presidential election in U.S.
history, absentee ballots were being discarded. State law forbids accepting
votes after an election deadline, Katsurinis explained. And delays in mail
delivery prevented many military ballots from arriving on time.
The experience convinced Katsurinis that it's time to permit military
personnel to vote via the Internet. "The technology is safe and secure,"
he said, and vote delivery is instantaneous.
Congress agrees, at least to the extent that it has ordered "a demonstration
project" of electronic voting by troops based overseas for the mid-term
election in 2002.
A year from now, when voters will decide which party controls the House
and the Senate and who will be governor in 36 states, tens of thousands
of troops stationed abroad might be able to vote online, said Jim Adler,
president and chief executive officer of the online voting company VoteHere
By the next presidential election, in 2004, the number of military personnel
able to vote electronically could be in the hundreds of thousands, said
Adler, whose company hopes to be involved in next year's demonstration.
The technology for secure, accurate Internet voting exists today, said
Adler. VoteHere routinely conducts online elections for corporations and
has conducted election tests in several states and foreign countries.
For U.S. troops, desktop computers or electronic kiosks would serve
as voting booths at overseas bases or on deployed ships. And the military's
extensive communications capability will ensure that votes get transmitted
to the United States from anywhere in the world.
Encryption would ensure that arriving votes have not been tampered with,
and an audit trail would make the election results fully verifiable, Adler
The biggest challenge will be preparing localities to accept electronic
votes and ensuring that local ballots are available in electronic form for
deployed voters. Nationwide, there are about 300,000 local precincts, each
with its own ballot, Adler said.
"The military is a perfect constituency" for electronic voting, Adler
said. Besides being equipped with the computers and communications capabilities
needed for online voting, surveys show they want to vote. Last year, 75
percent of military personnel voted, compared to about half of other eligible