Why Can't Americans Vote Online?Over the years and with lots of experience under my belt, I have learned the truth behind this old adage: “Don’t discuss religion or politics.” It seems that these hot topics are even more volatile during campaign seasons as people, locked into their religious beliefs and/or political affiliations, try to change another’s opinions, beliefs, or indoctrination. Unfortunately, these initial discussions can begin as an attempt to garner support for a particular candidate who shares one’s views on a subject of importance to them, but in fact, then leads to an argumentative confrontation.

When I presented this topic to Chris Pirillo here at LockerGnome for his perusal, he supported me in my decision to write the article, but pointed out that it was a hot topic that needed to be handled in a sensitive manner. To do this, I knew that it would be necessary for me to present this topic with the pros and cons specifically spelled out.

Our right to vote, guaranteed by the US Constitution, has undergone many changes over the years and today, with social networking sites affecting almost one billion of us, we find ourselves interacting in the world arena in unprecedented numbers. For many of us, staying constantly connected to online political updates, financial news, or keeping up with social networking sites has taken on the status of electronic survival. For others, it means that one device isn’t going to be enough to stay in touch with family, friends, and associates, and these individuals have, therefore, found it necessary to surround themselves with one, two, or three electronic devices (in my home we have eight of these toys).

In addition, high-speed Internet connections are paramount if we are to be successful in our quest to communicate important events quickly. While I firmly believe that all Americans should have the right to pursue liberty, we must acknowledge that at times this liberty is going to come at a cost. For those of us on the Internet nearly 24/7, we all need to be aware that any information put out there is basically open for the world to see. This information is a collection of data about our habits, our personality traits, our surfing habits, and our family lives that we may have unwittingly made available for anyone — good or evil — to access via the big computer in the sky.

It is this problem — the accumulation of data about you and me — that is perhaps the main objection to allowing online election voting. Those in the against camp tend to adhere to the following beliefs as to why online voting should be banned:
Why Can't Americans Vote Online?

  • Security is the paramount reason for those who are opposed to online voting. They are of the opinion that any system can be hacked and that no security system is 100% secure.
  • With millions of computers already compromised by viruses and in the hands of unscrupulous individuals, these controlled systems could actually alter voter results to gain political office for a candidate of their choice.
  • Opponents of voting online further offer that using HTTPS connections cannot be trusted since they can also be breached in an attempt to manipulate voters.
  • One such form of these viruses occurs when someone clickjacks your input. We know that this happens on common issues, but when it comes to voting online, an entire election could be controlled from behind the scenes as your vote is hijacked and you vote yes for no and no for yes without your consent.
  • Last, opponents are quick to point out the cost of adding new equipment, training voting personnel, and tabulating the results. They know, as do we all, that with tax revenue being down from federal to local governmental agencies, there is already an economy toll being taken as we strive to work under the newest budget cuts.

While opponents of online voting present a solid set of reasons as to why online voting should not be allowed, proponents present an equally compelling set of reasons as to why online voting should be allowed:

  • First on the list is the belief that online voting is an economically wise choice when compared to the traditional voting methods. Advocates state that, with this method, there would no longer be a need for a vast array of polling places or for a multitude of paid voting officials.
  • Green effect. The advantages to the environment are obvious since there would no longer be a need to print millions of ballots, millions of registration cards, millions of absentee mailing forms, or ballot initiative information (sometimes in multiple languages).
  • In addition, since voters could stay at home, the green effect would also be felt in the saving of gasoline.
  • Last, they purport that online voting would make it easier for the elderly, the disabled, the disenfranchised to participate from the comfort of a Wi-Fi cafe or their own home. This could mean that the election would more clearly result in the wishes of the people rather than in the wishes of the rich minority. This factor alone could be critical in local elections where the passage of a municipal bond or school bond proposal may require a certain percentage of voter support.

Why Can't Americans Vote Online?In my personal opinion, until security issues can be dealt with, I don’t believe that online voting is a practical alternative to our traditional methods. My concerns are most likely due to my being recently contacted by my credit card’s fraud department. During the conversation I learned that someone had made a charge, in the amount of $1,040, to purchase women’s clothing from an out-of-state mail order service. Thankfully, the people in the department were on their toes and caught this before my card was used to purchase additional items.

However, while this was frustrating, I know I am only one of the millions who will have their credit card information compromised. That being said, the most disturbing thing to me was the nonchalant attitude displayed by the issuing credit card company. It seems that it is making so much money off the retailer and consumer that it is not taking this problem seriously enough.

But how would any of us feel if our right to vote was stolen? Would we take such a casual approach? Until we can be guaranteed that our voting rights will not be compromised, I personally believe voting online cannot become a reality. However, if and when we can be assured that our security and privacy will not be jeopardized, then — and only then — online voting may become a reality.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.