From Dark Corner to DOT-COM:

The Road Ahead for Online Voting












M. Glenn Newkirk

InfoSENTRY Services, Inc.











July 15, 2000













© 2000 All rights Reserved. Reproduction, publication, or distribution in any form without the expressed, written permission of the author is prohibited.


From Dark Corner to DOT-COM:

Arguments About Online Voting


M. Glenn Newkirk

InfoSENTRY Services, Inc.

© 2000


My first contacts with voting in Dark Corner, Arkansas did more to shape my views of elections than all the political science courses I took and taught well over a decade later.


Dark Corner was how the locals knew Marble Township in the very remote northeast corner of Garland County, Arkansas. As far back as 1952, before I was in school, I would get up early and walk across the front yard to my grandfather's general store on a crisp November morning. Then at 7:00 a.m., acting as chief election judge, he would step on the store's porch and holler "Hear Ye! Hear Ye! The polls of Marble township in the County of Garland are now open for the purpose of conducting the Arkansas general election in Nineteen Hundred and Fifty-Two."


All day long, the township's folks would come in trucks and on horseback. Uncle Steve Clair even came on foot. They cast their ballots on the hardware counter by the pot-bellied stove. Those were the days when hardware meant hardware. They often lingered for hours after voting to discuss crops, people, and politics. I recall walking aimlessly around behind the store one election day and seeing Grandad and some of the neighbors sipping an amber-colored liquid from a bottle with a green label on it. It was a special day for them to get together, talk about things, and even walk a little on the wild side.


This coming November I will remember those mornings when I walk up the hill to Lacy Elementary School gym in Raleigh, North Carolina. It is the same kind of democracy inside that gym that was in my grandfather's general store. Most voters drive up to the gym, go past the campaign workers holding signs, and go in to cast their ballots counted by "mark sense" scanners. They mark their choices on paper and slip those ballots through the scanner that records and tallies their votes. They don't wait around much to talk. After fifty years, the technology is only slightly different. Paper. Pencil. Mark. Tally.


That basic voting technology, whether it is in yesterday's rural Marble Township, Arkansas, or today's urban Raleigh, North Carolina, is receiving a strong challenge. For example, Oregon uses a vote-by-mail approach, sending ballots to the addresses of registered voters. Nonetheless, this method still relies largely on paper ballots that voters mark or punch to indicate a preference. Many view that approach as a substantial departure from traditional election practice because of the absence of traditional polling places.


However, the real technological challenge to basic voting methods saw its most public face to date when Arizona conducted the country's first legally binding constitutionally protected election using the Internet in March, 2000. Also in 2000, the Department of Defense is conducting pilot projects in five states to assist certain military personnel to vote by Internet in November's general election.


The Internet is rapidly bringing about a change in what it means to "go to the polls." Going to the polls means sitting at your personal computer at home, at work, in an airplane, in a hotel room, or on an aircraft carrier. "The polls are now open" means connecting your personal computer to the Internet anytime during the week before "election day," navigating to the appropriate website, establishing your identity, and pointing and clicking your votes. We must face the fact that Online Voting (OLV) is here, it is now, and it is probably more inevitable than many would like to admit. Just as most election officials were getting familiar with automated voter registration systems, they are now facing demands to let the barbarians through the gates of their systems to touch the most sacred of sacred election functions: voting.


The Arguments for OLV

The arguments for OLV are direct, few, and straightforward. Generally, they address one of the most distressing failures of our democracy: most people of voting age do not consider it worth the effort to vote. The examples of electoral lethargy are legion. One of the more striking came in May, 2000. In a statewide primary runoff for Labor Commissioner and Agriculture Commissioner (plus local runoffs around the state), the statewide turnout in North Carolina was just less than 3%. The perceived costs of paying attention and going to the polls a couple of times a year outweigh the perceived benefits of electing government officials and voting

…the statewide turnout in North Carolina was just less than 3%.

on policy issues. Many view OLV as a way to reduce the cost of literally going to the polls and a way to reach out to millions of potential voters who otherwise will not go to the polls.



The success of the Arizona Democratic primary and the Defense Department project (and it will succeed, Sir!) will fuel the growing argument that runs something like this: "I already play trivia games, do my banking, pay my bills, order books, read the news and manage my pension fund using the Internet. Why shouldn't I have the convenience of voting by Internet?" The convenience argument for Internet voting is self-indulgent, Baby-Boomer-centric, and increasingly prevalent.


While realizing that political campaigns are turning off an increasing number of voters, we also need to realize that many people's lives simply are more hectic than they once were. Whether it is because of the demise of the single, 9-to-5 job in a household, the increasing competition for our recreation time, or the increasing traffic congestion everywhere, our lives also seem more congested than they ever were. If Internet will allow us to vote at our leisure during the week or so before the actual tally on "election day," then it will allow us to fit this civic responsibility into the "to do" list of our Palm Pilots.


If you doubt the power of the convenience argument, think of fast food. Few argue in favor of the nutritional benefits of fast food. In fact, nutritionists usually argue strongly that much of the stuff is downright bad for us. However, go to your local House of Mac, King, or TexMex at any mealtime and look at the people lined up inside and at the drive-through windows to get their generous, convenient helpings of carbohydrates, fats, sodium, and other additives. Convenience, speed, and low cost win the day and trump all the health arguments to the contrary.


As Bob Dole reportedly said during his presidential campaign, "The Internet is a great way to get on to the Net." It sure is. It is in our homes, offices, local libraries, schools, and airport terminals. It is available by cell phone and a host of ultra-available wireless technologies. The convenience of the Internet for online voting is undeniable. The success of this convenience in improving turnout has been proven.


Greater access

Simple convenience for improving turnout is not the only argument behind the demands for Internet voting. There is the open access argument. In early 2000, I saw the news footage showing a middle-aged quadriplegic man in Arizona who cast his first unassisted, private ballot using the Internet. I was filled with at least as much awe, deep-swelling emotion, and connection to democracy as when I saw people walking to vote in Marble Township. For my neighbors then, it was a duty and privilege many of them had just fought a war to defend. For this quadriplegic gentleman, it was an emotional assertion of duty, pride, equality, and independence.


Keep also in mind that among the fastest growing demographic segment of people going online is the 55+ age group. That is especially true of senior women. This is a demographic segment that is going to grow. For the aging population, having access to home-based voting will often be more of a necessity than it will be a convenience. As their mobility decreases, their interest in online voting, to go with online pharmaceutical, grocery, and banking services, will increase.


Doesn't that "home-based voting" phrase remind you of terms like "home-based health care" and "home-based schooling" and "home-based banking? Many of those conveniences also came about as a result of demographic shifts over the past couple of decades that led to new service access requirements. The private sector has responded to convenience demands with pancakes to go, online banking, online shopping, online church services, online news, and online tours of houses for sale. The public sector is responding with e-tax payments, e-licenses, and e-libraries. Growing and vocal demographic segments will have a difficult time understanding why voting is not e-accessible as well.


Try denying this argument and you run the risk of saying to large classes of citizens that they can remain dependent on others to get them to the polling places and help them mark their ballot.

For the aging population, having access to home-based voting will often be more of a necessity than it will be a convenience.

You run the risk of saying to them that you are not as open to their needs and concerns as you are to those of others in the community. You run the risk of saying that you are not willing to let them use the same electronic window on the world for participating in a democracy that they use for shopping, banking, and general communication. You run the risk of being sued for not using readily available technology to ensure them adequate ballot access.


Mobile Lifestyles

There is also the "Mobile America" argument. In 1952 people rode up on tractors, trucks, and horses to vote for the War Hero candidate and the "GI Reform" ticket that hit many small towns and cities. The decline in voter participation shows that most Millennial Americans will not even ride in their luxury SUVs to vote. In the meantime, soldiers stationed in remote areas with Humvees often face significantly more difficult obstacles to casting an in-person or even absentee ballot.


OLV makes it easier for Mobile America to vote and the Arizona experience appears to show that turnout will increase through this electronic mobility. Fax ballots cannot travel fast enough to follow light infantry into a new, hostile peacekeeping front. The Internet can. Absentee ballots cannot travel fast enough to catch up with the person traveling on the unexpected business trip. The Internet can. Absentee ballots cannot travel fast enough to reach the person quickly called home in another county on election day to care for an elder parent. The Internet can.


When you say you oppose Internet voting, you run the risk of saying to soldiers that our country will ask you to fight its wars anywhere on the globe on a moment’s notice, but will not make your ballot totally accessible to you anywhere in the world. You run the risk of saying that you will not allow citizens to use the same technology to vote that they use on those unexpected business trips to pick up their mail, pay their bills, and order books.


America is one of the most mobile societies in history, making nomadic tribes in Central Asia look positively like homebodies. Yet, Internet’s technology is available to connect us with our home counties, almost regardless of what happens in our mobile lives. The pressure to make that technology available for the nomads among us will increase because it is unlikely that the demands for our mobility will decrease.


Lower Cost of Elections

Finding polling places, recruiting election officials, purchasing voting machines, printing ballots, and even mailing ballots cost money. Conducting a statewide primary runoff for several "down the ballot" offices reportedly cost North Carolina counties $3.5 million dollars in May, 2000. That is the one that had the aforementioned 3% turnout.

However, computers are distributed voting machines that are already in people's homes. Connecting to a central voting server with those computers offers an eventual, potential lower cost than finding, equipping, staffing, and operating polling places. (Election officials today differ on what costs more: finding polling places or finding poll workers.) Proponents contend that these lower costs will become a reality particularly when so many people are online that it is no longer necessary to have as many traditional polling places. OLV proponents argue that voting by Internet offers lower costs associated with counting votes, printing ballots, and storing voting equipment. Proponents concede that the costs of server hardware, network hardware, security, and software are higher. However, they argue that the cost per vote, given the apparently much higher turnout, is significantly lower with OLV technology.


"Give a Kid a Hammer"

"Give a kid a hammer and all the world is a nail." Or so the saying goes. There are 100 million computers out there in the United States, most with some type of Internet connection. With all those hammers, people are looking for nails. Providing voter registration opportunities, giving access to campaign finance information, and allowing people to vote online are almost ideal nails in the elections community.


While the majority of election administration officials and officeholders probably recoil in fear at the thought of voting over the Internet, a growing minority sees that nail sticking out of the board, begging to be pounded. They are very interested in using new technologies in their offices and want to be in the vanguard of innovative election practices. They had the first websites, the first touch-screen voting equipment, and the first online voter registration databases. They have watched with interest Oregon's pioneering use of vote by mail. Now, the new cyber-frontier is the use of Internet technology to continue with the trend toward "e-government." These believers accept all of the other arguments for online voting and throw in a pinch of technological fervor to tie them into a complete package supporting OLV.


The primary arguments in favor of online voting focus on the desires to increase voter turnout and increase accessibility to the ballot to growing demographic segments. Clearly, the experience in Arizona and public opinion polls on the issue point to OLV as an immediate way to do both.


The Arguments against OLV

Of course, there are strong and numerous arguments against OLV over the Internet. The technology is new and has not developed the reliability of service as the paper and pencil we had in Dark Corner. As anyone who has heard any of the recent stories about hackers, crashes of e-commerce websites, and "denial of service" attacks can tell you, it is a rough and tumble world on the Net. That is the world in which OLV will occur.


Hackers, Viruses, and Trojan Horses

Foremost in the election community's mind is the potential for voting security breaches. The Internet is the wild west and there are a lot of bad guys out there. They are proud of being bad.

The Internet is the wild west and there are a lot of bad guys out there.

Given the penchant for parties and candidates to resort to occasional dirty tricks, imagine the concern about a partisan hacker being bad by altering votes, re-routing vote transactions, or disrupting critical voting systems. There is even the occasional argument that Internet voting would offer a welcome target for cyber-terrorists to disrupt our democratic process.


While some of these concerns might seem a bit far-fetched, a common adage of the computer security field needs to be considered soberly: "Given enough time, money, and malevolent intent, someone can breach the security of your system." It would be quite a trophy on a hacker's mantel to bring down a county-wide election system during an OLV period or to throw an election into disarray by altering a system's vote tally database the day before the final tally.


Fears of hackers breaking into databases or of viruses shutting down servers probably dominate the discussion when most people speak of security problems on the Internet. The massively prevalent and expensive ILOVEYOU virus strains in mid-2000 points to the damage that can be inflicted by a Trojan Horse, worm, or other such type of malevolent set of computer code. However, those problems have relatively straightforward solutions with properly managed firewalls, enforced security policies, and strict separation of voting servers from mail servers. A much more serious threat to election systems is the "denial-of-service attack."


In February, 2000 a 15-year-old boy in Canada reportedly participated in a denial-of-service attack that disrupted e-commerce on some of the largest and most sophisticated Internet sites in the world. He reputedly counted sites operated by,,, and others among his trophies. The problem with denial-of-service attacks is that the attacker does not need to gain access to your system to disrupt it. S/he needs only to generate an overwhelming number of access requests to your server in a very short period of time to block out all other legitimate requests to access the server. If this e-artery-blockage attack were to hit an OLV server during the final days of an election, the potential havoc could seriously disrupt an election. The potential for litigation would approach certainty. Cries for recounts and new elections would abound, particularly from everyone who lost.

…the potential havoc could seriously disrupt an election.

There are solutions to the denial-of-service attacks. The effective ones require redundant routers, some reasonably sophisticated network software, and an absolute guarantee that security procedures are followed by systems administrators without fail. Even then, the pernicious threat of at least mild disruption will remain. It is not a simple process to create an election site, invite the public in a county to use the site, and then filter out the 2 million access requests on Tuesday generated by servers in the Philippines, Finland, and Austria. Ask OLV vendors how they protect systems against denial-of-service attacks and watch their eyes closely when they answer.


So, security concerns are real on the WWW (the Wild, Wild West). Security for OLV systems, which goes far beyond the security now in place in most government Internet systems, will be time-consuming, mandatory, and expensive. Successful OLV security will require county election offices to have external security monitors, party "e-Poll Watchers," and extensive written policies to support assurances that their OLV systems are secure. Not only must OLV systems be secure, candidates and the public must know they are secure.


Voter Authentication Issues (Voter E-fraud)

A second security-related issue involves voter authentication. Let's create the term for the problem: Voter E-fraud. How can the Eagle County election official be sure that the OLV session originated by someone who entered the name M. Glenn Newkirk and the PIN# 4356has789 is really the same M. Glenn Newkirk who is registered to vote in a nursing home in Eagle County and has voted there for years? How can the official be sure it is not someone to whom I have given my PIN# and other identifying information (innocently, of course) and who is now casting that vote from the local political party headquarters? Will "PIN-buying" replace "vote-buying" as the election fraud accusation of the future? Are there other means of authentication, such as credit card swipes, fingerprints, or retinal eye scans that can be used to establish the voter's identity with greater certainty? Information security professionals and election officials are looking into these issues intently. Nonetheless, this issue and the attendant concerns for voter e-fraud have been among the most visibly advanced argument against OLV.


Maintaining A Secret Ballot

Another security-related issue is the potential for an "Unsecret Ballot." Current election methods offer significant assurances that the voter's actual vote selections cannot be traced back to him or her. However, some observers express concern that voters will not trust, with sufficient certainty, that their votes cannot be connected back to their names and PIN numbers. After all, the entire thrust in e-commerce has been to connect a specific transaction to a specific individual with a great deal of auditable certainty.

For commercial purposes, it is important to be able to prove that it was Glenn Newkirk using a specific credit card at a specific time to consummate a specific transaction. For election purposes, it will be even more important to establish that it is the real Glenn Newkirk voting and at the same time to remove all connections between Glenn Newkirk and his actual ballot selections.


Election officials go to great efforts to assure a secret ballot. The hardware and software remain under their control with substantial audit controls in place. However, two vital elements of the OLV act are not under the election official’s control: the computer from which the voting takes place and the network connecting that computer to the election server. What with downloadable cookies that capture keystrokes and sniffers that intercept data packets all being commonplace, election officials face a challenge convincing voters that votes will remain secret.


The stories of Kevin Mitnick allegedly hacking into sites and using "sniffers" to capture account numbers, passwords, and credit card numbers have grown to the proportions of Robin Hood legend. That legend remains in the public psyche. It is easy to imagine people who would fan concerns over vote secrecy with scare stories tied back to this mythology. Some of those concerns are valid and will have to be addressed by substantial encryption techniques and other standard security steps. Many other cyber-scares will turn out to be urban legends, almost becoming a type of virus themselves in that they spread quickly and prevent otherwise sensible people from taking useful actions. These less valid concerns about cyber-snooping on vote transactions will take a considerable amount of time and effort to overcome and establish the confidence of the candidates and the public.


The Digital Divide Argument

The opposing argument that has received the greatest attention from interest groups and the media--and in litigation--is that OLV will amount to digital discrimination against minorities and lower income citizens. Initially, the argument rests on the solid foundation that most Americans still do not own or work with a computer. Because these citizens have less access to computers and because more affluent citizens disproportionately have greater access to computers, the argument contends that OLV discriminates against minorities groups and the less affluent.


The argument contends that even if election jurisdictions offer the same number of traditional polling places, the digitally disenfranchised voters actions in the polling place will be diluted by the fact that other people will have more convenient access to the polling place. Eventually, so goes the argument, election jurisdictions will start to close polling places because once OLV is in place, it is less expensive than traditional voting methods with their pay for election officials, compensation for facility use, and the cost of printing ballots. Additionally, because the "less wired" citizens are less likely to work with computers, they are less likely to use them, even if they are provided through kiosks in malls, in public libraries, or polling places. Advocates of this argument contend that the digital divide ultimately spills into digital discrimination in election administration.


Cost of Technology

Earlier this paper noted that some proponents of OLV contend that the "cost per voter" is substantially lower in the Vote-by-Internet model. Certainly, if OLV increases the turnout dramatically and if election jurisdictions save money by using fewer printed ballots, polling places, and poll workers, the lower "cost per voter" might be convincing.


However, in virtually every discussion above, the solution to security problems involved substantial expenditures for additional servers, additional network hardware and software, and (above all) experienced security consulting. The

…the initial investment will be very substantial…

cost of paying token amounts to pollworkers is replaced by paying many hundreds of thousands of dollars for additional network security equipment, specialized software, security auditors and consultants, and redundant servers.  The information technology industry is preparing to rise to the challenge.


So, the absolute financial effect of Internet voting might be a displacement of cost from one set of expenditures to a very different set of expenditures. Certainly, the initial investment will be very substantial. It will be one that small-to-medium sized election jurisdictions might find difficult to support.


Loss of the Meaning of Voting

The romantic, Jeffersonian view of voting is still a prevalent one. Voting is a unique step in our lives. We do it after an lengthy period of advertisements and debates among combatants. Going to the Marble Township general store or walking up the hill at Lacy Elementary School and marking a ballot on a special day is a distinct activity for most of us.


However, expressing an opinion about a new school bus routing plan on a TV news website, participating in a "flash poll" for presidential candidates on a web politics portal, expressing an opinion on a sports website about Pete Rose's lifetime ban from baseball, electing credit union directors, and casting a vote for a labor union official are becoming common place "voting activities" for millions of people. Casting an actual vote for President, US Representative, governor, labor commissioner, state Senator, and county commissioner on a county website will not be terribly different to most people. Point, click, vote, and


For those who want voting to be a distinctly Jeffersonian and romantic act of civic participation, steps of point, click, vote, and   just do not measure up. The clear, separate act of voting disappears in the e-noise of instant polls, booked travel reservations, downloaded MP3 files, and books purchased online. Will everyone be able to distinguish between participating in the “instant poll” on a news channel and the real voting step to be taken in the week leading up to the actual election day?


Fear of Technology

Many election offices still do not have an e-mail address, much less their own website. They have a very short history of managing any kind of computer system other than a personal computer or two. For many, the idea of voting by Internet is an entirely new world of election administration.


In this world, "backup" is not just a dangerous maneuver in the parking garage. It is configuring a computer network to allow a full, accurate backup of voting databases while those databases remain open and accessible for voting. Unlike many government systems, you cannot take the system down to do a full backup. Also, you will require backup systems and communications capabilities to guard against the effects of power outages, communications failures, hardware crashes, and software malfunctions. It all has to work 24 hours a day for the five, seven, or ten days of the voting period.


The move to voting on the Internet is a move from a world of computers used to get ready for an election (by assisting in voter registration, ballot layout, and generating poll books) to a world of managing "mission critical" computers that will be used directly by citizens. Election administrators move from being responsible for computer systems used directly by a handful of people to supporting thousands of computer users. Election officials' intermediate role between the computer and the voter is gone.


This shift requires a very different level of technology management for election officials. To the degree that OLV replaces traditional voting procedures, networks running the OLV operation become all-important enterprises. You cannot conduct these elections if the computer is down. It is your job to see that such an outage does not occur--at all costs. These technological responsibilities are not everyone’s cup of tea and do not fit in their comfort zones. More than one election official

…networks running the OLV operation become all-important enterprises.

has thought of their retirement plans when the issue of online voting was raised. Nonetheless, just as businesses found themselves moving very quickly from "bricks and mortar" operations to "B2C" (Business to Consumer) and "B2B" (Business to Business) organizations, election officials are likely to find themselves in the roles of providing online "B2V" (Ballot to Voter) services over their county's Internet systems.


The "Destabilizing Potential" of Instant Voting

Many argue that a major cause of the recent volatility in the US stock market is the instant nature and prevalence of day trading. Day traders often change their investment positions on a whim many times a day. A casual comment by the Fed Chairman or a comment by a Sophia Loren look-alike on a financial news channel can move hundreds of thousands of people to buy or sell within an hour. The price of stocks can fluctuate wildly because of simple statements and “herd” behavior of investors.


A similar scenario comes to the forefront with OLV. People sitting in front of their TVs with a beer and popcorn respond to an ad and cast an impulsive vote based on a whim. An untrue rumor spread maliciously or a negative advertisement the day before the close of voting causes thousands to cast impetuous votes. People point and click quickly, voting only on one candidate or issue on a ballot--but "wasting" the rest of the ballot. Instead of television evangelists encouraging voters to lay their hands on the television and call in their credit card contributions, the image is of a persuasive candidate encouraging voters to "Vote For Me Now" to clean up corruption in government!


While malicious rumors and negative ads are not new, the ability to spread them through the Internet and then to assist voters in voting immediately on the Internet is new. Imagine parties or candidates hosting televised and online "vote-athons" during an election period to convince people to vote immediately during the on-air show. The Internet vastly compresses the time span between the cause and the effect. The time between stimulus and response shrinks from weeks and days to minutes and seconds. The potentially destabilizing impact of this dramatic time shrinkage on the electoral process is a cause of significant concern in the election, political, and legal communities.


Some People Want Lower Turnout

As sad as it is to say, some campaigns base their strategies around lowered voter turnout. Those campaigns and candidates who consistently prefer lower voter turnout will not greet warmly a new technology that offers the potential of significantly higher turnout.

It is likely that parties and candidates will sniff around this technology until they figure out exactly how they can fit it into their campaign strategies. Once they have some evidence on which to base their strategies for increasing or lowering turnout, their expenditures on television advertising and lobbying will soon follow to encourage or discourage wider use of OLV.




The public who uses the Internet probably does not know about, understand, or care about most of these arguments by OLV proponents and opponents. However, they understand the convenience of having near universal access to their own data and their own e-mail. The "Internet Public" sees the number of candidates who have their own websites to reach voters, inspire campaign workers, and raise money over the Internet. Do you expect these same officials to withstand heavy pressure from the Internet Public to allow use of that same technology for voting after they get elected? The millions of voters who will visit campaign websites in 2000 and the hundreds of thousands who will contribute funds to candidates and causes will be ready very soon to take the next step. They will be ready to click-and-vote very soon.


Take a look at the voters who will feel more enfranchised by being able to vote with technology they use daily. The citizens with mobility difficulties, the senior citizens who cannot or do not want to leave their homes, the citizens who face rapid and often unexpected dislocations around election day, all make their own powerful arguments for accepting the Internet as a standard voting technology. Do you expect them to stop pressing the issue of OLV because there are concerns over security, cost, or confidentiality? No. They simply will expect election officials to solve the problems and make the ballots accessible to them at home.


Take a look at the exploding DOT-COM industry's interest in promoting and expanding the potential of voting on the Internet. They are promoting heavily the potential and the capability of the technology. They spend significant sums on marketing and media advertising telling opinion makers and the public that Internet voting is here, now, successful, and secure. They are working with the political parties to help determine which party OLV will benefit more. Is there an equivalent, well-funded industry group with as many connections to candidates arguing against the adoption of this technology?


Another industry likely to lend its support to OLV is the media. Newspapers and television news channels have developed strong WWW sites, offering news, advertisements, and a host of other commercial opportunities over the Internet. They are likely to view the continuing downward slope of the voter turnout line and reach a conclusion that online voting, just like online streaming of news events on their websites, is an experiment worth undertaking. Of

course, the abilities to link to the county voter site and to display very quick election returns from their news pages will attract more eyeballs to their websites as well--increasing revenue potential.


So, just as Dr. Strangelove learned to love the bomb, election officials need to learn to "Love the Net"--or at least learn to live with it. The voting public will demand it and enough elected officials will start to agree. Powerful interest groups will demand it, sue for it, and hasten its spread.


Implementing OLV will require more planning than most election officials have ever done with their computer systems. It will require putting in place appearances, assurances, and the reality of extreme security. Election officials who start planning for it now will face fewer problems and achieve higher success than those who do not. Election officials who build OLV into their strategic information technology plans—even if it is for ten years down the road—will be less at the mercy of hardware, software, and network vendors when the inevitable time arrives.


I still miss watching my grandfather walk out on the front porch of his Dark Corner general store at nightfall announcing mainly to the dogs, cats, chickens, and cows that Marble Township's polls were now closed. Almost every eligible voter in the township had voted and some of them were sitting around the stove waiting for the counting to begin. In a few years, I also will miss going to Lacy Elementary School and voting in my community. I say I will miss it because I probably will be voting by Internet from a hotel room in another state sometime during the week before the results are counted and announced. Perhaps I will want to travel quickly on election day to visit an ill relative who needs help with assisted-living arrangements.

The Internet industry will lobby for it. The media will warm to it. Special interest groups and the military will support laws requiring and enabling it. Enough politicians will embrace it. The growing Internet public will demand it.


It is already here.


Additional Reading


A Report on the Feasibility of Internet Voting. California Internet Voting Task Force. (January 2000.)


"Internet Voting Off To A Rocky Start in Arizona Democratic Party-Run Primary." Election Administration Reports. (March 20, 2000.)


"Internet Voting Exptected to Spread." William Glanz. Washington Times. (April 13, 2000.)


"Thousands Vote Online in Arizona." Rebecca Fairley Raney. New York Times Cybertimes. (March 8, 2000.)


"Net Voting Alliance to Propose Standards for Online Elections." Government Technology. (February 28, 2000.)


"All-Star Voting Fraud Targeted: Baseball Goes Deep to Tighten Online Security." Computerworld. Vol.34, No. 23. (June 5, 2000.)


"The Tangled Web of E-Voting." Wired News. (June 26, 2000.)