Election Day provided extra morning chatter around the CM water cooler (well, the Keurig machine): “How long was the line?” and “Did you have to wait outside?” were among the main concerns. In a time where waiting in a line can seem like an archaic activity, it inevitably sparked the question, “Why aren’t we voting online?”
Advocates argue that sensitive activities from banking and bill paying to air traffic control are already done online and that online voting has potential to lead to higher voter turnout-especially from the young adults of the country. Critics point out the obvious vulnerabilities of networked computer systems, citing that lost votes are not acceptable. Plus, the voting system is supposed to protect the anonymity of a person’s vote, unlike a banking or e-commerce transactions.
So far the United States has only conducted a few small-scale initiatives to study the effects online voting would have on elections. In the early 2000’s, the U.S. military began testing the Secure Registration and Voting Experiment for service members stationed overseas to vote online; however, the Pentagon unsurprisingly scrapped the project due to security risks.
In D.C., the Board of Elections and Ethics invited hackers to prod an Internet-based voting system, but ended it after a week when their expectations of infiltration were met. Still, online voting is proving beneficial in other countries, particularly in local elections.
Eighty cities and towns in Canada have experimented with Internet voting in municipal elections. The town of Markham, in Ontario, has offered online ballots in local elections since 2003. Estonia has allowed online voting for all of its citizens in general elections since 2007, with no known breaches of security. Our European friends in Italy, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland are considering Internet-based voting.
Currently, online voting poses more problems than solutions. It’s pretty much guaranteed that an online system would be attacked but is the system currently in place completely free from corruption or foul play anyway?
Maybe in the future all we’ll have to do is look to see which candidate has the majority “likes” on Facebook.