E-Voting and Related Use of the Internet for Elections Term Paper

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E-Voting and Related Use of the Internet for Elections

Electronic voting often regarded as Internet voting, online voting or e-voting is an electoral system that utilizes encoding to permit a voter to pass on their secure and confidential ballot over the web. (E-Ping meeting Brussels) The democratic system of formation of government entails authority of the citizens to choose leaders and to represent them in the Legislative Assembly and form the government. It is pertinent to note that a lot of citizens are found to be uninterested in the process of election and do not even cast their vote. Such attitude of the voters may arise out of the lack of awareness about how and where to cast their ballot, lack of awareness about the election process or lack of time. (Running Head: Future Elections -- On the Internet?)

This is particularly true in case of United States since there does not exist a uniform standard of election process. Several electoral procedures like, paper ballots, mechanical lever machines, punch cards, and more recently computer touch screens, etc. are prevalent in United States. The associated complicacies in absence of uniform standardized voting methods and equipment were in focus and centre of controversy during the Presidential election of 2000. This election was overwhelmed with several problems. There existed errors in counting of ballots even some ballots were not counted at all and a large fraction of ballots seemed to have rejected in comparison to past elections. (Running Head: Future Elections -- On the Internet?)

Congress enacted the Help America Vote Act - HAVA in 2002 that allocated $3.9 billion associated federal funds to assist states in upgrading to new e-voting systems. E-voting equipments are not completely new. They even existed during 1960s and 1970s, with introduction of optical scan and punch-key machines facilitating the voter to choose candidates with a keyboard. Direct Recording Electronic machines were introduced during 1990s involving a paperless voting system. They are however felt to be very costly valuing about $3,000 each and only a few countries opted to purchase them only after allocation of funds through HAVA. The Election Data Services a political consulting firm predicts that about 50 million people in the United States are casting their votes in this November by means of the paperless touch-screen voting machines and another 55 million resorts to pen to mark a paper, subsequently to be scanned by electronic machines. (How E-Voting Threatens Democracy)

California enacted a law during the last week of September for paper trail on all the e-voting machines by 2006. A federal appeals court reiterated a Florida lawsuit that necessitated the voter verified paper ballots on touch screen machines. This made a number of states to think of either stop buying the new machines or to compare whether to really ban paperless voting in the post presidential election periods when there is evidence of using them. (Leach, 43) Presently, the Internet is considered to be an integral component of all aspects of the campaigning ranging from circulating the press releases in coordinating volunteers' efforts, fund raising and online GOTV efforts. The elections of 2000 and 2002 are differentiated with the realization of the fact the Internet is not just a medium to transmit the brochures online. The two way personal communication between the campaigning and voters, dissemination of information, instantaneous feedback and propel the uninterested voters for arriving at a firm conclusion. (Jalonick, 26) Internet being the part and parcel of every day life has sufficient reason to bear the responsibility catering to the voting system. Many merits and demerits are attached to this system and the paper shall deal with the pros and cons of the use of internet in elections. (Running Head: Future Elections -- On the Internet?)

It is worthwhile to think of the merits of moving to Internet Website Voting. As it is evident that most of citizens have access to the computers and Internet both at home and in their respective business concerns the additional cost of the equipment for the purpose is considered at its minimum. Generally the participation of people in elections are not considered high in absence of a significant issue like school referendums or good campaigns that bring people out in the 2000 presidential election. The voters in America numbers about 111 million people, which are only 55% of the total population. This put forth sufficient evidence that the people often finds it difficult to get out for voting amidst their increasing busy schedules of work responsibilities and family commitments. The voters' participation is expected to increase with granting them liberty to cast their vote at their own convenience, without time and space constraints through the web. (Running Head: Future Elections -- On the Internet?)

The younger generation is more apathetic to the present election process in comparison to the older population regarding the same as traditional. With the advent to new election process in the 21st Century voters are expected to participate in large number. The e-voting system is considered to be cheaper in comparison to the present system. Since computers are actively engaged, curtailment of expenses with regard to the polling stations, printing of ballot papers, purchase of equipments, costs with regard to counting of papers are quite substantial. A significant amount of savings occurs in respect of businesses since they are not necessitated by the government regulations to allow off to the employees during Election Day there by saving the company from loss of man-hours. (Running Head: Future Elections -- On the Internet?)

The voters those are out of their constituencies can easily participate in the election process with introduction of Internet voting since it overcomes the time and space constraints of the present system. With accessibility to the Internet connection the voters are able to cast their vote from anywhere in the world with Internet Voting. With introduction of Multilanguage voting system the election process is expected to be more accessible to the minority voters those are not considered to have required expertise in English. The merits of internet voting is further emphasized on the grounds of its increased efficiency since the results are expected to be obtained instantly with continuous updating of the counts of votes with casting of each vote. (Running Head: Future Elections -- On the Internet?)

However, the integrity and accuracy of the voters are of great concern to the critics. In case of close competitions necessitating recounting the voting machines fail to put forth a voter verified ballot printout. There is no scope for confirming to the correct tabulation of the e-voting even though the circumstances in normal. (Leach, 44) Presently, the biggest problem relating to the American election system is absence of acceptable standardized voting procedures and equipment. Moreover, the procedure and the equipments differ from state to state and variation in equipments within a state also is quite visible. The shift to the electronic election process ensures complete standardization with easy understandability more particularly to the new immigrants. With decreasing probability of the chance of errors the advanced technology ensures reducing rates of rejected votes. (Running Head: Future Elections -- On the Internet?) E-voting machines are claimed to be faster, more accurate and easier to handle in comparison to the punch card and leer machines as quite evident in the Presidential elections 2000 at Florida. (How E-Voting Threatens Democracy)

Even though there are many merits for shifting to the electronic voting system many demerits are attached to the system and requires to be settled before effective implementation of the same in United States. Integrity and accuracy of the election results are considered to be the foundation of a democratic system. Each qualified voter is empowered to cast only one vote which must be confidential and free from tampering. These are much difficult to be ensured in absence of a well designed e-voting system. Online persons communicating through Internet connection are quite anonymous. This is considered to be a major demerit associated with e-voting since it is very difficult to review the identity of the person even ensuring the confidentiality of the ballot. Some of the solutions forwarded include use of pins sent out to qualified voters or smart cards like national ID cards. Both can easily be captured or cracked by the hackers with a little computer knowledge. (Running Head: Future Elections -- On the Internet?)

Since the voter is required to authenticate with some passwords on the website, there is scope for someone to sell out their votes to someone else if they have planned not to vote anyway. This leads to winning an election by fraudulent modes rather than representing the vox populi. The polling stations are required to be established in addition for the citizens having no computer access could go and cast their vote. Due to rampant computer illiteracy still exists, the Internet voting is considered less accessible. In view of the older age group i.e. more than 64 and above of age, it is pertinent to be cautious while adopting…

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