Each election cycle the same events repeat themselves. Once the winners have been declared after the ballots have been counted, political scientists and commentators flock to the newsrooms for the post-poll analysis. There they lament about the waning public interest in elections, low voter turnout, etc. Other people, however, view the problem a little more different. They believe that voter turnout would be significantly higher only if online voting were available. However, skeptics see things differently and believe that voting online would only favor the wealthier voters. Following are some benefits and drawbacks of voting online.
Increased Voter Participation
Proponents on how to vote online successfully argue that it is possible to increase voter turnout by making voting easier. If all it takes are a few mouse clicks to vote, then long queues outside physical polling locations will not deter them from performing their civic duty. While logical, this argument is still speculative. It is not possible to state for a fact that convenience will necessarily translate to a higher voter turnout.
In the United States, elections typically involve hiring of workers to run the polling locations on the day of the election and to count the ballots as soon as the polls close. In many jurisdictions, there is currently use of expensive electronic voting equipment that requires periodic maintenance and software updates both of which cost money. However, even if voters were allowed to cast their ballots online, some still would prefer to line up outside their local public schools and churches to cast their ballots. In the end, Internet voting may not reduce the cost that significantly.
The Digital Divide
The skeptics of Internet voting argue that poor and minority voters may have less access to computers and by extension the Internet. Therefore, these voters are less likely to benefit from voting online. For well-off voters, expanding access would increase their participation while doing little to improve access to low-income voters that already have minimal influence in the political process. However, the digital divide has narrowed significantly since the 1990’s and those without Internet access at home can often get access in public places or their workplaces.
The technical vulnerabilities of Internet voting may also undermine the credibility and integrity of elections. If it is possible for hackers to cripple entire computer networks or break into high-security websites, then voters may not trust reported results. Internet voting poses several concerns including the need for systems that are immune to tampering and ballot secrecy.
If you have followed this article, then you are better informed about the advantages and disadvantages of Internet voting. Vote-by-mail and election voting machines both have their vulnerabilities. However, for some voters the benefits of Internet voting may outweigh the risks. The paper ballots of overseas and military ballots regularly arrive way past the deadline making their votes insignificant.