Online Voting: The Conversation Continues

If you are someone who hears about people waiting in line for 12 hours to vote and wonders why we aren’t given the choice of voting online, you aren’t alone.

More and more people are asking themselves why it is that they can’t vote online, while they can do almost everything else in their lives online.

Radio host Brian Joyce is one of those people. I was happy to join him today in a live discussion about online voting for his show on WGOW 102.3 FM Chattanooga, TN.

Thanks to Brian for focusing on a topic that is more important than many realize.

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Analog Voting in a Digital World – Paper ballots cause long lines at the polls

The chart above tells it all. Paper ballots cause long lines.

CHECK OUT my column on IVN how paper ballot voting is causing chaos in many States.

http://ivn.us/2014/06/12/causes-long-lines-polls-paper-ballots/?utm_source=ivn&utm_medium=listing_home&utm_campaign=opt-beta-v-1-0

Do we really need to spend all day in line to vote? Should we?
Should we have to wait in line at all?

Why do we wonder why so many people don’t vote? Small wonder turnout in the United States is so disturbingly low.

We must get out of the dark ages of voting technology and election dysfunction.
We must Cyber The Vote!

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Voting Technology in the U.S. : The Lost Decade

The irony.

At the very end of the 20th century, the United States was poised to revolutionize voting forever. After centuries of voting only at the polling place and often on insecure and inadequate paper ballot systems, the Internet was about to change all that.
The notion of voting online, and all the benefits that it would bring, was occurring to more than a few election officials and developers of online technology. After all, everything else in our lives was rapidly going digital and paperless. Voting would be no different.

Several states began to trial online voting pilots, particularly for absentee voting. Arizona offered online voting in 1999. That’s right, thirteen years ago online voting already existed.

DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) terminals at the polling place were phasing out antiquated punch card and optical scan systems throughout the country. While electronic voting at the polling place was better than voting on paper, online voting held the most promise.

One online voting system was developed by the Defense Department (DOD) to be used by overseas military voters. Everyone understood that the first place online voting could have an impact was with these voters. Paper absentee ballots are inadequate enough for domestic voters. For military personnel stationed around the world, going through the process of mailing paper ballots is often daunting enough to drive them to not vote.

The first DOD pilot project was called VOI (Vote Over the Internet) and it was launched in 2000. It was so successful that the DOD later launched SERVE (Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment) in 2004. In all technical trials, SERVE performed flawlessly as well.

Yes, at the dawn of the new millenium the future of voting in America was clearly going to be online. It looked like a bright future.

Then came Bush v. Gore and the election of 2000.

We know what happened. Archaic is too kind of a word to describe the punch card ballots with the famous “hanging chads”. The same is true for the butterfly paper ballots used in Palm Beach County, Florida. These ballots caused holocaust survivers to vote for Pat Buchanan for President instead of Al Gore. These confusing pieces of paper handed the election to George Bush.

Suddenly the subject of voting technology, always a very wonkish one which drew no public interest for generations, was all the rage. Congress acted and passed HAVA (Help America Vote Act). Election infrastructure had to be modernized and everyone knew what that meant. Digital voting was in. Paper was out.

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Happy “Paper Trails” to You: The Failures and Fallacies of Paper Ballot Voting

Thomas Edison’s very first patent, granted in 1869, was for an electronic vote recorder. Why are we still voting on paper ballots in the 21st century?

In an earlier post entitled “Online Voting vs. Paper: Papier est Passe” , I stated what is obvious to most of us: We live in a virtually paperless society. Almost every basic transactional function in our lives is done online. One glaring exception is the way in which we vote in the United States.

Not only do most of us vote on antiquated paper ballot systems while we do everything else online, the election administration and “election integrity” culture in the United States has no problem with this disparity. In fact, they almost universally insist that the only “trustworthy” way for us to vote is and ALWAYS WILL BE on paper. But here’s the thing: this “paper worship” on the part of those who run and observe our elections is both counterfactual and extremely self-serving on their part.

Opponents of online voting apply completely different standards of necessary “trustworthiness” between digital voting systems and paper ones. They fundamentally oppose online voting on the grounds that it theoretically could be compromised in a way that threatens the credibility of any election result. The key word here is “theoretically”.

Since online voting is working so well in the private sector and in other countries for actual political elections, opponents tend to rely on the world of “what ifs?” to justify their stance against remote voting.

As Dr. Bill Kelleher points out in “How NIST Has Misled Congress and the American People about Internet Voting Insecurity; or, Internet Voting in the USA: History and Prospects” , his just-released brilliant treatment of this subject from a political science perspective, opponents of online voting use “unfalsifiable” arguments to define the standards which digital voting systems must live up to in order to be trustworthy. Of course, such standards are impossible to meet so they claim online voting can never be safe. Period.

Meanwhile, these critics of digital voting apply no such standards regarding the outcome of elections using paper ballots in order to define those tallies as “credible”. On the contrary, they insist that paper ballot voting be used in all circumstances despite the well known horrible track record paper has. Mention Bush V. Gore, butterfly ballots, hanging chads or long lines to these folks and their response is “Oh well, no systems are perfect”. Highly flawed voting systems are fine with them as long as they use paper.

The Verified Voting Foundation, a leading moneymaking propaganda mill for paper voting, recently conducted a “study” of the 50 states with regard to their voting systems and graded each state. The VVF was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars (Perhaps more. One grant alone from the MacArthur Foundation was for $300,000) to look up each state and find out what kind of voting systems they use. They organized their results into “grades”, published and publicized the report. Nice gig if you can get it, I suppose.

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E-File, but no E-Vote?

Happy Tax day, everyone. If you are one of millions who now E-File (Electronically file) your tax returns, I ask you to pause for a moment and think about what you have just done.

You transmitted all of your financial, personal, and tax information over the internet, safely and securely. I ask you a simple question? Did you give a second thought to it? I doubt it. Nor should you have.

In one of my first posts almost three years ago, “Imagine a world…”, I tried to point out how rapidly our world has changed from just a decade ago. We all remember how many important tasks in our lives we now do online, that only recently we took for granted must be done on paper.

Let’s face it, folks. E-Filing is another very strong example of the fact that security and privacy concerns over digital activities can be overcome to allow us to do amazing things online, without thinking twice about it.

Online voting is no different in this respect.

Remember, when you hear the vocal detractors (the self-declared experts) tell you that voting is different than banking, or Tax filing, or commerce, or even Air Traffic Control, that they are wrong when it comes to security, auditability, recountability, or privacy. Online voting is not “different”.

Voting IS very different from all these things in one very important respect. Voting is our most important RIGHT, from which all our other rights come. We should never allow ourselves to be denied the most contemporary technology to express that right.

If we “cyber the tax”, surely we can Cyber The Vote.

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Realizing the Dream of Access with Online Voting

Civil rights walk hand in hand with voting rights. They always have.
When it comes to voting rights in the United States in the 21st century, paper ballots and voter I.D. laws do certainly represent movement. Unfortunately the movement is backward.
If we move forward with voting modernization it will move us in so many other ways. A time where everybody participates in the franchise in equally representative numbers is within our reach. Our future could be very bright, if only we shift out of reverse and into drive.
In the future of my dreams, terms we have used for centuries to describe our elections no longer exist: Turnout, suppression, enthusiasm gap, polling-place voter intimidation, over-votes, and certainly paper ballots.
Ever hear of groups like “True the Vote”? They basically are election intimidators, who show up at polling places to harass “those people” and keep them from voting. Did you see the huge billboards that showed up in swing states last year that said “Voter fraud is a felony” along with pictures of people in handcuffs? Imagine a future where polling-place intimidation no longer exists. Voters can vote safely and discretely online.
Imagine a future where all elections matter to everyone, and everyone has easy and reliable access to their vote. Imagine a future where midterm elections and even local elections command the same level of interest and participation as Presidential ones. Shouldn’t they?
In the future of my dreams 105 year-old people don’t wait on 5 hour lines to vote on scraps of paper. Indeed, nobody waits on any lines anywhere to exercise his or her most important right.
The “integrity” of the vote has always been used as the primary rationale for tactics designed to suppress. “We must be able to trust the tally”, they say. This is the rationale behind voter ID laws and registration purges, along with many other institutional tactics.
The exact same rationale is used by opponents of online voting. “We can’t trust it”, they say. “So shut up, go wait in line for hours so you can make your mark on a scrap of paper. Better yet, don’t vote at all.”
It is time to get moving and claim access for all. Voting modernization would be a good place to start.

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Voting Access in the U.S. – “We can fix this”

Desilene Victor, 102 Year Old Voter who waited for five hours in line to vote, at the State of the Union.

President Obama clearly cares about voting rights and voter access. He also seems determined to do something about it. I am quite heartened by this.
In the short span of three months, the President has put the issue of long lines at voting places front and center in all three of the most significant speeches for any President: Election night, Inauguration, and The State of the Union.
On election night in November President Obama told us that we “have to fix” our dysfunctional voting system. On Inauguration Day he told us that “Our journey is not complete” until we fix it.
Most significantly and powerfully, during last night’s State of the Union Address, the President not only told us “we CAN fix this”, he introduced us to one of the reasons why we must.
In the gallery sat Desilene Victor, a 102 year old Miami voter who waited in line for over FIVE HOURS to vote in the last election. After the President told her story and introduced her, she received standing ovations from those below and instant national attention. This attention is vitally important to the issue of voter access. Judith Browne Dianis (@jbrownedianis) and the Advancement Project deserve great credit for shining the light on Desilene and what she represents.
Opponents of online voting often point to senior voters as a group that would somehow be disenfranchised if the use of online voting were to become widespread. They argue that older voters are less likely to have and understand computers. Like most of their arguments, if you actually unpack and disect this one you see how silly it is.
Leaving aside the fact that advocates like myself never suggest that we should abruptly replace the polling place with online voting, the very notion that the convenience of online voting would inconvenience seniors is flawed. First of all, many seniors now use computers for things like banking and travel arrangement right along with the rest of us. My own father is 89 years old and is very fluent with email and the computer. These conveniences haven’t “left seniors behind”.
More importantly, even if someone as old as Desilene Victor does not have a computer or IPAD or smartphone, do any of us honestly believe for a second that it would take five hours to get her in front of one?
Senior centers, nursing homes, libraries and even coffee shops have free internet access to the public. There is no doubt that trekking to a polling place is more difficult for ANYONE than getting to the nearest computer or smartphone, or getting one to you.
It shouldn’t have to take Desilene Victor or anybody else more than five minutes to vote, much less five hours in line waiting for the chance.
Yes, Mr. President. We can fix this. Our journey is not complete.
We must fix this. We MUST Cyber the Vote.

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Voting Access – “Our Journey Is Not Complete”

Voting access. In his second Inaugural Address, President Obama said “Our Journey is not complete” until long lines to vote are history.

On election night in November President Obama referenced the disgusting status quo of long lines on election day.
“We have to fix that”, the President said.
Today, in his second inaugural address, the President again told the country that he finds our current state of voter access in the United States to be unacceptable. He included exercising our voting rights as part of a list of important issues that still face our country.
“Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.”
Many of the problems the President spoke of are not easily solved. When it comes to improving voter access, the things that block progress are in some ways easy to defeat. In other ways it will be more difficult.
Technologically, the answer to ending 12 hour lines to vote is easy: Provide citizens with the option to cast their vote online. Online voting can provide our elections with better security, auditability, transparency, and verifiability than our current antiquated paper based election administration does. It can do all this at lower cost. Online elections in the private sector and for political elections in other countries prove this every day.
Without an entrenched resistance to automating much of our election process, solving the problems of waiting in line for hours and low voter turnout is easily done.
Unfortunately, with such resistance firmly in place, with an elections administration industry and culture that firmly rejects the modernization of our voting as threatening to their status quo, completing the journey toward easy voting access in the United States will not be easy. It will require a rejection of fear-based rationale and a rejection of the position that our nation, in the second decade of the 21st century, should accept 12 hour lines- accept dysfunction – as the norm.
When it comes to voter access we must complete the journey, we must Cyber the Vote.

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Why are we waiting IN LINE when we could be voting ONLINE?

Florida early voters waiting for hours in line. Why are we waiting IN LINE when we could be voting ONLINE?

Happy Election Day. Did you vote?

If you are a voter in Florida, perhaps you already voted early. In that case perhaps you waited four hours in line to vote. No doubt anybody in that situation would ask the question, “How long do we have to wait?”

I ask the same question regarding online voting every day: How long do we have to wait? How long do we have to wait till our election officials provide us with modern technology with which to vote?

How long do we have to wait till polling place voter suppression is a thing of the past, along with the need for the polling place itself?

How long do American voters have to wait before we can vote online?

How long before enough is enough when it comes to jumping through hoops in order to exercise our most important right?

Other countries aren’t waiting. Canada isn’t waiting. Last month the city of Edmonton, Alberta conducted a trial online election as part of their plan to implement online voting next year. (By the way, the red jelly bean won). Other cities and municipalities throughout Canada are doing the same.

When will our election administration system move out of the 19th century and into the 21st?

How long do we have to wait?

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Online Voting vs. Paper – Papier est Passe

(Editorial Note: This post from November 2011 has been this blog’s most popular. Given this year’s attention on the broken election administration system in the U.S., I am reprinting it below without edit)
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I have been meaning to post a comment regarding some of the words I hope will become obsolete in coming years: “Polling place”, “turnout”, “voter suppression” and “enthusiasm gap” to name a few.

I want to see all of these words become obsolete because I envision a time when online voting brings us not simply convenience, but unprecedented voter participation.

But the word that most needs to become obsolete with regard to our elections happens to be the thing that has rapidly become literally obsolete in the rest of our lives.

That thing is paper.

We were told that we would become a paperless society and I’m not sure many of us believed it would really happen.

But the Internet, and more importantly Broadband high speed internet access, has made it happen more rapidly than we ever could have imagined.

Thanks to the lighting-fast proliferation of the Internet, broadband, and web-enabled smartphones in the last 10 years, we are now the paperless society we imagined. This is true in every way, with a few minor exceptions and a single GLARING one.

You guessed it, the exception is how we vote and, perhaps more importantly, what “election integrity advocates” see as the only possible way for our otherwise paperless world to approach election technology.
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