Internet Voting Improves Participation

The PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business of Government has issued a grant report that explores the potential of Internet voting for increasing voter participation and voter registration. In the report, Internet Voting: Bringing Elections to the Desktop Robert Done, assistant research professor of management and policy at the University of Arizona, examines the 2000 Arizona Democratic presidential preference election, or primary, which was the first political election to use Internet voting.

More votes were cast on the Internet in the 2000 Arizona Democratic primary than by any other means and were about three times the total number of votes cast in that state’s 1996 Democratic primary. Done also examined a sample survey by the University of Arizona that suggests 62 percent of the unregistered voting age population would register to vote on the Internet.

Done applies those results to the voting age population of the United States and observes that “if just half of the 24 percent of the unregistered voting age population did register on the Internet, there would be an additional 25 million registered voters.”

“The Internet presents an opportunity for improving democracy and the process by which it is achieved. Registration and participation of voters, essential to a healthy democracy, could be increased with Internet technology,” Done writes in the report.

Done recommends that state and local jurisdictions continue to experiment with Internet voting, increase research and development to improve Internet transaction security, and continue research on the individual and societal effects of an Internet voting system.

“The report comes at a time when recommendations for improving the voting process are being examined, and e-government is transforming citizen interaction with government. We believe this research will contribute to the debate and help improve the processes of democracy,” said Grady Means, PwC Consulting managing partner for the Washington Consulting Practice.

The opportunities to improve voter registration and participation are accompanied by complex technical, legal, and social issues. Internet voting has also faced challenges over whether the digital divide makes Internet voting discriminatory. Because many of these issues were addressed successfully in Arizona’s Democratic primary, Done is optimistic that they can be resolved in the future.

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