Online voting experiment expanding

SERVE

Motivated by the "hanging chad" calamity of the 2000 presidential election, the Defense Department has chosen Accenture's new eDemocracy business unit to expand trial Internet voting for the upcoming 2004 elections.

The company will help the Federal Voting Assistance Program's (FVAP) participation in a Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment (SERVE), one of a series of congressionally mandated initiatives to improve poll access to Americans.

"We created our elections practice in response to the market need that emerged following the 2000 elections," said Steven Rohleder, group chief executive of Accenture's government operating group, "and we continue to see tremendous global business opportunities in the election industry."

Presently, 10 states participate in SERVE, in partnership with DOD and Accenture: Florida, Arkansas, Hawaii, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.

SERVE will allow absentee uniformed services personnel, their families and overseas U.S. citizens to register to vote and cast ballots in the 2004 elections for federal office. They can use any Microsoft Corp. Windows-based computer with Internet access anywhere in the world.

A small-scale pilot experiment, Voting Over the Internet, was performed during the 2000 election. It involved 84 people from 21 states and 11 countries, providing FVAP with a successful baseline upon which to expand its program. Participants cast the first binding ballots via the Internet for federal, state and local offices.

Using SERVE, county election officials will receive registration applications and ballots, but to ensure security, existing election administration systems will process the information.

"Security is everyone's first question about Internet voting, so we made security the driving factor in the SERVE system design," said FVAP director Polli Brunelli. "We are working closely with state and local election officials to ensure that the integrity of the electoral process is maintained."

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