Internet voting allows people to be able to cast a vote in local elections without ever needing to leave their home or place of work. It saves them time because a physical ballot doesn’t have to be filed and it saves a community money because tallies can be generated automatically. On the other hand, the internet is not a fully secure place to cast a vote as numerous data breaches over the past 5 years have shown. These internet voting pros and cons will examine the other key points to consider on this topic.
What Are the Pros of Internet Voting?
1. It may engage voter demographics that are typically hard to reach.
Young Millennials are particularly attracted to technology and its benefits. The idea of casting a vote by mail or over the telephone is seen as time consuming and unattractive. Internet voting, on the other hand, can be done with a smartphone and a data connection. It fits in with their lifestyle routines and this means voter demographics who may not normally vote could be encouraged to do so.
2. It may increase local voter turnout.
The 2014 elections in the United States generated the lowest levels of voter turnout since World War II. Just over 36% of those eligible to vote did so and participation in the voting process in the US has been declining since 1964. Internet voting increases accessibility and saves time, which encourages people to potentially vote when they normally wouldn’t be inclined to do so.
3. Results aren’t dependent on personal interpretation.
Personal interpretation of ballots was one of the main issues that occurred in Florida during the 2000 Presidential election. It introduced the phrase “hanging chad” into the American voting lexicon. Internet voting removes this process because everything happens automatically. This means it could become possible to generate more accurate results than even voting machines can create.
4. It saves the environment.
Not requiring dozens of staffers and multiple vote counts automatically saves a community money. It also means less paperwork is needed, which creates a savings for the environment. Because fewer natural resources are needed to complete a vote, they can either be saved for future needs or preserved for future generations.
What Are the Cons of Internet Voting?
1. Not everyone has access to the internet.
Internet saturation levels in the United States are approaching 90-100% in some areas, but not every household has the internet. Rural areas are especially vulnerable. If a community would move to a full internet voting process, it would naturally exclude those who don’t have online access.
2. Ballot secrecy issues would be created.
Any time information passes over the internet, the IP address is recorded somewhere. Someone could then access this information after a vote takes place and know how someone voted. This could then influence future campaigns because specific voting habits could be threatened or manipulated, something that an anonymous vote is able to typically prevent.
3. Voter education issues would become a major concern.
If everyone could vote over the internet at their convenience, then voting could happen without understanding what the questions on a ballot really mean. Imagine being a Washington or Colorado voter being able to vote over the internet for the legalization of marijuana, but casting the wrong vote because they were unaware of what the question before them actually meant. This means some of the cost savings that would be experienced from a transition to the internet would be eliminated because of an increased need to market and educate the voter base.
4. It could erode the idea of a civic responsibility even further.
People don’t vote already because they don’t feel it is necessary. By eliminating the ability to come together to fulfill a civic need, there is a good chance that many more could feel like a vote is unnecessary. For those that still vote, internet voting isolates them from the social contact of the traditional voting methods. It ultimately doesn’t stop the apathy that voters have, so those who don’t vote because they don’t care are still not going to vote.
These internet voting pros and cons show that it could be beneficial to some communities, but there are certain risks that must be managed. How will privacy be maintained through internet voting? Are there ways to educate the general voting public so an informed vote can be made? If the concerns brought up can be managed effectively, then internet voting could be a way to engage people in the civic process once again.