Internet revolution pushing way into voting booth
By WOLF BLITZER
November 3, 1999
Web posted at: 5:49 p.m. EST (2249 GMT)
The punch of the card could soon be replaced with the click of the mouse, if the Internet revolution reaches the voting booth.
It's not as far-fetched as you might think. The Pentagon already is developing a system that would let some military personnel oversees cast absentee ballots over the Internet in next year's presidential election. And several states are exploring the possibility of online voting, including California, Washington, Minnesota, Iowa and Florida.
"If you look at who votes right now, the youth do not vote. And they are on the Internet in droves, and it's expected that they will be begin to move to voting as the Internet does," said Jim Adler, president of Votehere.net.
If and when online voting becomes a reality, Adler will be ready. He's already selling Internet voting software which has been tested in six mock elections.
But not everyone's convinced it's a good idea. There's concern the Internet could skew an election by making it easier for some groups to vote at the expense of others.
"Most studies show that the type of Internet user most likely to access voting is a male, 35 or under, with average income, college educated -- not exactly your average voter in America," said Deborah Phillips of the Voting Integrity Project, a group monitoring voting activity.
But Adler's convinced that just as almost everyone now has a television, the same will be the case soon with computers.
But there's also the question of security: whether fraud, a computer virus or breakdown, and hackers would be able to upset an election.
"Certainly, a presidential election would be very attractive to cyber-terrorists," Phillips said.
Supporters argue the right computer codes and encryption will ensure each vote is secure, by using confidential codes and encryption. Still, critics worry that voting would destroy an important civic ritual.
"We are sacrificing the one remaining communal act that we have in our society -- that is, people getting together at the polls on election day," said Curtis Gans of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate.
But tradition alone may not be enough to outweigh the convenience of voting by computer. After all, bad weather, long lines and confusion at polling places are often part of the Election Day tradition as well.