Electronic Elections: The Perils and Promises of Digital Democracy

By R. Michael Alvarez; Thad E. Hall | Go to book overview
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Chapter 5


When we published Point, Click, and Vote: The Future of Internet Voting in January 2004, we had little idea that we should have been publishing the book in Europe, not the United States. In the book, we discussed the potential benefits of Internet voting and laid out a road map for how policy makers could conduct experiments to learn how Internet voting could be utilized to address the voting needs of special populations, especially military personnel, overseas civilians, individuals with disabilities, and similar groups who have had difficulty voting under the current voting process. The road map we lay out in the book is being followed, just not in the United States. Instead, it is in countries like Estonia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and France that e-voting experiments are being conducted.

In 2002 the future of Internet voting seemed to be cautiously bright, largely because the history of Internet voting efforts had been positive. The Department of Defense had carried out a successful Internet voting trial in the 2000 general election, and the Democratic Party of Arizona had also carried out an Internet voting trial in the 2000 primary election that received positive media coverage. Likewise, successful Internet voting trials were being held throughout Europe, including the United Kingdom, France, and Switzerland. In these trials, there had not been any documented security problems, the central critique of Internet voting, and evaluation efforts indicated that participants in these trials had enjoyed the online voting experience. Although the trials had not boosted turnout as some had hoped—increased turnout was an explicit goal of the experiments in the united kingdom—the experiences were problem-free.

With the invasion of Iraq and the deployment of more than 100,000 forces in Iraq and the continued deployment of thousands of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the 2004 election had the potential to be more significant in the history of the American electoral process than most knew because of a requirement by Congress on the Department of Defense to deploy an Internet voting system to facilitate voting by military personnel in this important election.1 This system was to have addressed the historical problems faced by military personnel, their dependents, and overseas citizens in casting ballots using the current paper-based system. As many as 200,000 voters were initially expected to cast ballots on the system, which


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Electronic Elections: The Perils and Promises of Digital Democracy


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