The Pros and Cons of Voting Online

by Lillian Downey, studioD

Political elections in the United States require voters to travel to the polls in person or to mail in absentee ballots. That has resulted in elections, such as that in 2004, receiving substantially fewer votes than TV reality shows that allow online voting. While the availability of online voting in political elections may change in the future, given the fast pace with which technology develops, right now the issue is still in debate.

Pro: Convenience

Perhaps the biggest pro of online voting is that it has the potential to make voting easier and more convenient. For those who have access to computers and the Internet, online voting would take little more effort than a few clicks. This way of voting also eliminates the need for transportation, reduces or eliminates missed time at work or school, and decreases the impact of barriers such as lack of child care, illness, confusion about polling locations and long lines. It would make voting easier and more private for those with disabilities, anxiety issues or serious medical conditions.

Con: Election Tampering

Where there is Internet, there are viruses. The Internet is an almost incomprehensibly large network of computers, and monitoring those computers for security threats is a hefty and expensive task that cannot ever ensure 100 percent safety. That's fine when you're using your computer to update your blog, but when you're determining the future of a nation, even the smallest security flaw can can have dire consequences. In addition, savvy hackers could potentially find ways to rig the outcome of the elections, such as tampering with the way votes are submitted and counted or even casting votes for people who did not actually intend to vote. What's more, without monitored polling locations, there's no way to ensure that voters were not coerced into voting a certain way. It can also be difficult to prove the identity of the person casting the online vote.

Pro: Increased Efficiency and Accuracy

Once established, online voting has the potential to streamline the entire election process, eliminating the need for voting machines, vote-counting volunteers and election-day workers. The election results could be delivered in record time, with a potentially higher degree of accuracy than you'd get when people count the votes. Votes would no longer be cast on paper ballots, saving paper and ink. Voters could also pause to do online research on candidates or issues.

Con: Decreased Efficiency and Accuracy

While it holds true that the right system with the right security could increase efficiency and accuracy, the wrong system, or even a tiny glitch in any system, could skew the results. Glitches and bugs are just par for the course when it comes to any software program. The first national launch of election software, no matter how rigorously it had been tested, could throw an error significant enough to cause voters to have to re-cast their votes.

Con: Disenfranchisement

If a national online election system contained a glitch, even if the glitch was successfully repaired, it's likely that many Americans would harbor a distrust for the program. Even if the system proved sound, those worried about the threat of hacking and other "cheating" methods could steer clear of online voting. The process could also lose voters who don't have computers or who aren't comfortable using computers.

Pro: Turnout

When voting is as simple as taking a few minutes to log on to a website, it stands to reason that more people will do it. This type of voting could play a key role in increasing voter turnout, especially among voters aged 18 to 29 -- a group that makes up over one-third of the electorate, yet typically has a 50 percent or lower turnout rate. This group is more familiar with technology and has already integrated computer and smartphone use into their everyday lives. Elections Canada reports that while there are mixed reports on increased voter turnout from the countries that use online voting, some countries do report increases.

About the Author

A Jill-of-all-trades, Lillian Downey is a certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, certified clinical phlebotomist and a certified non-profit administrator. She's also written extensively on gardening and cooking. She also authors blogs on nail art blog and women's self esteem.

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