Turnout vs. Tally: The Big Myth

How empty was your polling place this year?

We advocates for online voting believe it can significantly increase voter participation in the United States, especially with younger working voters. Opponents of digital voting are skeptical that we can “trust” it to produce accurate and reliable election results. Coincidentally (or not), the same opponents are usually skeptical that online voting will increase turnout anyway.

Turnout vs. Tally. There is a deeply held belief that digital voting, while it may have some advantages, is not something we should trust our elections to. Despite the fact that we live in a world that now trusts digital online activity for everything else we do, voting is considered “too important”.

Meanwhile, it is clear that traditional voting methods have done nothing to help increase participation. In fact, they usually suppress participation. A long line at a polling place and a paper ballot have never increased turnout by a single voter.

We suffer from tremendously low average turnout rates in the United States. Yet, when you ask most opponents of digital voting if we should at least take a chance that digital voting will increase turnout, they universally say “No”.

“What good is higher turnout if you can’t trust the tally?” is a common refrain from online voting opponents. This question illustrates a false representation that higher turnout and reliable elections are mutually exclusive. They most certainly are not.

Turnout vs. Tally is a false choice. We can have elections that are more convenient, more inclusive, less restrictive and also have election results that we can trust.

In fact, online elections produce much more reliable results than paper ballot based ones. When you consider the long history of issues that accompany antiquated voting methods, the very presumption that we shouldn’t modernize our elections because then we won’t be able to trust the tallies is odd.

In a previous post, “The Lost Decade“, I discuss the issues that led to “Bush v. Gore” in 2000, a constitutional crises created by paper ballot confusion, and what has happened with our election infrastructure during the following years.
Even today, the proliferation of optical scan voting and hand recounting of paper ballots produces unreliable and disputed election results across the country. It often takes days, weeks and even months to produce these unreliable results. All at great cost to the taxpayer.

Meanwhile, online voting systems produce flawless election results. Election returns can be discerned in minutes rather than months, at lower cost to the taxpayer. Elections tallied by digital voting methods rarely result in legal disputes.

We must destroy this myth of turnout vs. tally. We must demand elections that can be well-represented. We must demand elections that are convenient and inclusive, as well as reliable.

We must Cyber The Vote.

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