Should people be allowed to vote in federal elections over the Internet?
Should federal elections really be held over the internet? Are there any security threat arising from such an undertaking? Has any other country succeeded in online voting? Where are we now and where do we want to be in the new future in terms of technological advancement? Answering these questions would explore the much debated topic on the pros and cons of online voting. Estonia has succeeded, Canada has tried it and so is Ireland. Why then should America not follow suit and embrace online voting? In my opinion, it would be a good idea if online voting was allowed, provided the required measures have been put in place to ensure that they are fraud free and secure (Ananda 20). The number of people who don’t vote as a result of the phobia of queuing may be reduced if online voting was allowed. At the same time, the time (which is an asset in the American context) taken to vote would be greatly reduced. With the many reports of security lapses, banks accounts being hacked, MasterCard numbers being stolen and many other negative stories the idea of online voting justified in their campaign/debate on internet voting. Though fraud and malpractice never lack in an election, I concur with the opposing side, since a small error in the system might crash the whole system. To vote or not to vote online has its pros and cons and therefore, until an evidence based study was carried out, the debate will continue. The statements described above are weighty and forms the basis of the thesis statement, where the advantages and drawbacks of internet voting will be discussed, how it could be done as well as how challenges to online could be overcome.
Online voting process
Online election voting is a viable and feasible undertaking. If embraced, the first step is registration. Online registration in this case would be the easiest whereby a voter would be required to access the voting website by providing an access code or a password. This would require the individual to create login details with biographical information. The site would require an individual to answer a security question, after which a person is allowed to access. After accessing the site, a voter would be required to state the state and county he/she represents and the list of candidates seeking election would be displayed. Then a voter would be required to first choose the president, after which he is prompted to save the results. This undertaking is irreversible once a person clicks the Ok button. The window would then prompt a person to go to the next electoral post and vote. The advantage of this system is that it does not allow one to skip a level, or a position.
Advantages of online voting
Increased voter participation
One of the greatest advantages that internet voting could bring to the voting system is enfranchisement or increased participation (Schreyer 2). It may not be verifiable, whether internet voting may lead to this cause, but an assumption is that some people fail to vote because they fear the delay and the long queues. Having an opportunity to vote online would eliminate these negative attributes thus lead to an increased voting pattern. Assuming that there are no risks associated with online voting, many people would be interested to vote online as a result of convenience. The idea of absentee voting, which is allowed in America today should explain the success factors that online voting would bring. There are also many undeserving population voters who vote in low turnouts because the traditional means of voting poses barriers to them, the assumption is that upon the implementation of internet voting, they would be encouraged to vote.
Cost and staffing
The burden that elections bring to the countries are enormous. The costs of the ballot materials, hiring and training of the staff, security maintenance, and the long working hours among other factors could be a thing of the past. Embracing the internet voting in this case would reduce the staffing level as well as the costs involved in election (Epstein 893). As a matter of fact, the costs for staffing would be assimilated to the maintenance and management of the online process, but with a firm technology in place, the costs should be reduced to a considerable level. At the same time, considering the costs involved in printing ballot papers, postage, and mailing services, online voting would be cost effective since the initial costs would be absorbed in the consequent elections as only maintenance of the server would be required.
The current election process requires an election official to be on the standby to support the voting process by assisting the voters where possible. Assuming that civic education was carried out properly, minimal assistance would be recorded. With the idea of the internet, having the right voter identification processes would lead to greater coordination between localities (Schryen para). On the other hand, having the right infrastructure and techniques in lace would greatly improve the voting proves since there would be lesser coordination and surveillance by the election officials since the system would cater for this. Ensuring that there is a dedicated voting system in place that would allow voters to vote from their computers would lead to easier coordination between the voters and the election offices. In case of problems with voting over the networks, room for remedy would be easier and better since each state could run on a platform that directs queries in a way that they can be rectified on a real time basis.
Efficiency and effectiveness
Voting is the only way justified that can allow members of the public to have a voice in the political leadership of the country. Allowed to vote in an open and fair manner, through means that are reachable conveniently, they could turn in large number, or rather there could be an increased voting pattern. This is supported by the fact that online voting does necessarily require one to have a computer to vote. The modern phone technology has smartphones that are capable of operating using various operating systems. This being the case, even though people may argue that internet voting may lead to under voting as described by the traditional voting, the mobile technology which is within the reach of every American could help increase voter turnout (Patil 115)
Security and accuracy
The presence of a properly designed online voting system would allow for better and more improved security and identity protection. Since elections run by third parties usually eliminates mismanagement and fraud, voter confidence would be enhanced. The technology used by banks and other institutions to deliver instant and real time information could be beneficial in the election processes since it could allow greater accuracy and experience. The electronic voting ballots would deliver instant messages once an individual presses the OK button. Using such kind of technology, there would be no rejected votes, mismarked or invalid votes since the system would not allow for any mistakes. This would increase votes, while at the same time reducing the number of destroyed votes.
Drawbacks of online elections
Compatibility of the software
Although technology is well supported, the software compatibility to allow the voters to vote in a single platform may pose threat when voting. In some instances, the computer systems that do not run a given software may be denied access if they are not running on a particular platform that is employed by the main server. This is unlike the traditional voting system whereby ballot boxes are brought and no platform or infrastructure is required. Another issue that online voting would encounter is that of software installation to enable the voter to harmonize their infrastructure.This would be disadvantageous to some voters who do not have access to computer systems. It should also be noted that some companies, military departments and other bodies prohibit the installation of new software in the computer systems. This could pose a great danger since non availability of these plat form would lead to nonvoting.
One of the greatest drawbacks to any online systems is the risks that are associated with the system. Fraud, hacking, virus infection, among other online malpractices has led to the fear that elections, which may not receive much attention as the financial institution’s technology may be prone to encroachment. Broadly speaking, vulnerability could occur from the client’s side, on the network or on the server. These vulnerabilities could include credential theft whereby a hacker forwards a given voters credential, for example username and password to another person who would then vote later. At the same time, there could be the modification of the blank ballot presented thus affecting the entire electoral process. The modification might eliminate contestants or change the timing marks on the ballot paper (Volkamer and Rüdiger 99). At the same time, there could be a modification of the voter’s ballot and the redirection of voters using techniques like phishing.
Could the problems be solved?
The systems used by the banking institutions are prone to risks and encroachment. This being the case, the management, or the programming technicians, keep on updating their programs and software and technology, so that they could reduce the impact of risks. Likewise, the problems regarding voting could be solved if the proper technological platform and infrastructures were employed. Enhanced structures and platforms would ensure that risks relating to theft of information, viruses and hacking were reduced
Whether manual or electronically managed, elections are very sensitive as they describe the kind of leadership that will steer the country in the next several years. This being the case, care should be taken when determining the option to use. As compared to the manual voting, the electronic voting would prompt to be a super idea since it is simple to undertake through the online means. At the same time, it is less costly and can save a lot of time when tallying. Its mobility and flexibility capability sums up the advantages. Despite this fact, online voting has drawbacks which include vulnerability to attacks, initial cost outlay as well as the inequality problem. All in all, when well addressed, internet voting can help the society. The relevant authorities ought to take corrective measures top weigh the balance between opting and no opting the electronicvoting
Ananda, Dev, et al. “The Future of E-Voting.”
Epstein, Jeremy. “Internet Voting, Security, and Privacy.” Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 19 (2010): 885.
Patil, pimplodkar, et al. International Journal of Advanced Research in Computer Science and Software Engineering.”: A survey on voting systems. International Journal 3.6 (2013). Available at: http://www.ijarcsse.com/docs/papers/Volume_3/1_January2013/V3I1-0221.pdf
Schryen, Guido. “E-Democracy: Internet Voting.” (2003): 1017-1021.
Schryen, Guido. “Security aspects of internet voting.” System Sciences, 2004. Proceedings of the 37th Annual Hawaii International Conference on. IEEE, 2004.
Volkamer, Melanie, and Rüdiger Grimm. “Multiple casts in online voting: Analyzing chances.” 2nd International Workshop on Electronic Voting. 2006.