Let’s think outside the ballot box, all the way to the cloud.
When we consider Online Voting, we correctly envision using it as a convenience tool. Hopefully, in the near future we will be able to excercise our voting rights in the United States, with a simple “swipe” on our phones, and from anywhere in the world. However, we rarely think about the advantages of using Online Voting today at the polling place itself.
There would be many advantages of polling place Online Voting. The first would be cost. Taxpayers don’t usually give much thought to how much of their money goes toward adminstering elections in their districts. Yet, like any other tax expenditure, spending on elections should be scrutinized. Today we spend a lot of money on voting and ballot tabulation machines for our elections, and we frankly don’t get much in return.
Local election officials have to make major financial decisions over which machines to buy, only to often regret and be stuck with the machines they choose later on. By the time the poll workers and the voters get used to those machines, they are deemed outdated, and new expensive machines are needed.
Districts also often spend large amounts of money on hand recounts of optically scanned ballots, for even the smallest of election tallies. That money is literally wasted, as it goes toward neither upkeep of machines nor new equipment.
In New York State, where every district voted on lever voting machines for decades, taxpayers also had to devote little expense to hardware for those decades. Every county in the State has recently had to switch to optical scan ballot machines, which have proven to be a nightmare. But optical scan paper ballot systems are very expensive, and these counties are stuck with them for awhile.
A modern polling place, which consists of a sufficient number of computers for voters, would represent a much less expensive polling place to operate than the traditional one. Computers cost exponentially less than voting machines, and the polling place in the cloud would always be up to date.
Another advantage of polling place Online Voting would be noticably better access for the voter. A polling place with a large number of computer voting stations would provide a much faster and more voter-friendly experience. Multiple languages, special needs access, and different types of devices could all be easily provided. Compare this setting to today’s polling place of a handful of machines and long lines.
No small advantage of an online polling place would be the accuracy, efficiency and speed of the vote tally and result reporting. It would be instantaneous the moment the polls closed.
No waiting for days, weeks, or months for election results. A nanosecond or two would often suffice.
Perhaps most importantly, a cloud based polling place will familiarize the voter with online voting in general. The voters who are comfortable voting on a computer at the polls will soon want to bring the polls with them wherever they go.
Even after we begin to have online voting for our political elections from anywhere, we will still have polling place voting for awhile. The best polling place will be the connected one.