COUNTY LINES

Iowa tries online voting and sees it as a way

Cybervoting. Voters in two counties in Iowa, Woodbury and Johnson, got a taste of Internet voting during last month's elections.

The counties teamed up with Votehere.net of Kirkland, Wash., to pilot a secure Internet voting program. The voting software ran on the counties' PCs, so election officials didn't have to buy new hardware.

'People voted the usual way first,' Iowa deputy secretary of state Donn Stanley said. 'Then we did a more or less mock vote over the Internet.'

'The public response was tremendous,' Johnson County auditor Tom Slockett said. In one precinct, 91 percent of those who voted said they would like to vote from home on the Internet.

The importance of Internet voting is that it gives people more choices, Slockett said. 'And it will increase turnout, particularly among 18- to 24-year-olds, the people who vote the least,' he said. Less than 50 percent of eligible voters cast ballots for president in the most recent general election, he said.



Convenience factor. Slockett compared the convenience of Internet voting to traveling by car. 'If you take a train, the schedule is set by someone else'the time and place of departure, and the destination. That's like voting on Election Day'we pick the place, the day you have to go. I think Internet voting will empower the voter by breaking down that barrier of having someone else choose when and where you have to vote.'

Vanessa Keitges, Votehere.net's product marketing manager who worked with the counties to set up the Web voting, said votes are tallied while the ballots are still encrypted. 'It's a higher level of security than an online credit card transaction,' Keitges said. 'We're trying to keep that same concept of privacy you get from pulling the curtain in a polling booth.''



Name check. When voters come to the online polling place, names and addresses are verified by poll site workers, just as they would be in traditional voting, said Scott Axworthy, Votehere.net's vice president of information technology and operations.

When a voter sits at a PC to vote, a plug-in that contains the encryption module is automatically installed into the PC's browser, Axworthy said.

The software runs under Microsoft Windows 9x, NT and Mac OS platforms with Netscape 4.08 and up and, for PCs only, Internet Explorer 4.01 and 5.0.



'Trudy Walsh

Internet: twalsh@gcn.com

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