Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Democracy Goes Cyberspace: Voting by Click of Mouse ; Arizona, in First Test, Will Allow Voters to Cast Ballots Online In

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Democracy Goes Cyberspace: Voting by Click of Mouse ; Arizona, in First Test, Will Allow Voters to Cast Ballots Online In

Article excerpt

Over the past several years, the Internet has begun remaking key aspects of American life: communication, information, banking, and commerce.

It is now poised to start nibbling away at the way citizens govern themselves, too.

Arizona, in a first for the nation, plans to allow voters in its Democratic presidential primary March 11 to cast ballots on the Internet. Democrats will be permitted to vote online from home, work, or at traditional polling stations. While the issues involved in spreading Web voting are too complex to predict rapid growth of such ballots, the Arizona move is seen as a pacesetter that could galvanize fast action elsewhere.

Indeed, last Friday the White House announced the launch of a National Science Foundation study assessing Internet voting for the nation as a whole.

Explaining the Arizona decision, state Democratic Party chairman Mark Fleisher says, "We want to make voting fun, easy, and exciting."

While no one knows how competitive the nomination race will be by March, the online vote already has historic significance.

"I think it breaks the logjam psychologically," says Marc Strassman, an official with Votation.com, a Web company dedicated to building the technology used with electronic voting.

To date, a number of private organizations, such as the Sierra Club and the American Bar Association, have conducted internal elections online. Some government jurisdictions in Washington state have tested online balloting, and the US military has tested some online voting systems for soldiers posted overseas.

In California, a statewide task force charged with studying Web voting will issue its report next month, a step that could pave the way for tests around the state.

Kim Alexander, a member of that task force, says the Internet is undoubtedly changing politics - with everything from candidate Web sites to a rich array of finance data now posted online and available to anyone with a modem. Ms. Alexander's California Voter Foundation has begun publishing "digital sunlight" awards to states it regards as leaders in that effort. …

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