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Why can't Americans vote online?

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, residents in New Jersey displaced by the storm were allowed to cast their ballot online or by fax.There did not seem to be any problems with this process.

However, elsewhere, long lines at polling places were reported. Virginia even had to suspend reporting of its results because even though its polls closed at 8pm, people were still in line at 11 p.m. waiting to vote. Florida also had problems with long waits. Newly reelected President Barrack Obama even said it was a problem that needed to be fixed in his victory  speech.

Early voting helps and is more popular now than ever, but a bigger and more obvious fix would be to open up the voting process to new technology, allowing people to vote online. But it’s not that easy. The military tried it in 2004 with the Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment system. But SERVE was pulled shortly before the election amid security concerns, even though 100,000 soldiers had already registered.

It’s true that hackers will attack anything. And voting must be secure. But I wonder if there is a stopgap? If the long lines are caused by the limited number of voting machines, why not set up mobile voting pavilions at polling stations next time? People would still have to meet with an election official and confirm their identity, but then they could download a secure app for voting on their personal mobile device. They would cast their ballot over a secure wireless signal, so anyone who tried to hack such a system would need to be within the range of that signal, which could be downgraded to only project within a set area. It would like bringing your own voting machine or the self-checkout isles at the supermarket. Those who use the do-it-yourself option would clear out of the other line of people waiting to cast their ballots the traditional way.

And perhaps if this smaller step was successful, and I think it could be, people would eventually be less afraid of implementing a true online voting system like that in Canada and Australia.

Posted by John Breeden II on Nov 08, 2012 at 9:39 AM

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Reader Comments

Fri, Dec 7, 2012 SayitAintSo

If online voting could guarantee that each voter was only allowed one vote and then delink the voter from their ballot (to ensure secrecy of who votes for what/who) then I would be for it. Until then, I am with the computer scientists of the world, and have no faith...

Fri, Dec 7, 2012

I can remember voting for the 1st time 30 yrs ago. No technology. It was paper. All across my State, there were no lines. Why is that? Just thinkin' out loud...

Fri, Nov 9, 2012

Also, the author said there were no problems with the NJ voting by email/fax... you better check your fax (facts) again.... pun intended...

Fri, Nov 9, 2012

I am a computer scientist. I love computers and technology. I refuse to vote on an electronic machine. Paper ballots only for me. The author is naive. Voting was taken down BECAUSE it was not secure. Wireless is the MOST unsecure, even for short distances. Sometimes technology is NOT the solution.

Fri, Nov 9, 2012 Shawn Richmond, VA

And yet most people are not paranoid over the security of their banking app loaded on their phones.

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