Thursday, November 08, 2012

Isn't it about Time Voting went Digital?

It's 48 hours after the polls closed in Florida and they are still counting the votes. CNN has not declared a winner in that state yet because the votes are so close. Florida doesn't matter this year; President Obama has already won. But it could have mattered, just like it did in 2000 when we didn't know who was going to be president until December.

Obama says, "We need to fix that." But will we finally get around to fixing the problem of long lines at precincts, some with voters waiting hours to cast their ballots? Will we fix voting irregularities, problems with extra-long ballots, voter registration snafus, and attempts at voter suppression? How can it be done?

One way that I advocate in the staunchest manner is to allow voter registration and actual voting to take place on the Internet. Voting online would mean that long lines at polling places would be a thing of the past. It would mean an end to paper ballots. It would mean that voting would no longer be an inconvenience.

Right now, in Indiana, if you're not already registered you need to go to the voter registration office or a license branch in person to register, at least 30 days before election day. If you then want to vote early, you have to go downtown, pay to park, walk through metal detectors in the City County Building, then wait in line to vote. If you'd rather wait for election day and vote in your precinct, you need to first find out where the voting is going to take place the physically go there, wait in line, and vote.

But with Internet voting it could work like this: Go online to the site of the Federal Voter Registration Agency (which doesn't exist right now). User your tax identification number or social security number to register online any time during the year prior to election day. Then within, say, 30 days of election day, you could log on to the voting site and cast your ballots for federal office elections, such as for president or senate. In this scenario, election day would be nothing special, just the last day in a series of days that you could vote on your computer.

As for state elections, states could follow suit and set up their own voting sites which could be linked to the federal site. All voting could be done electronically in the privacy of your own home at your own convenience. There would be no more counting of ballots. Votes would be counted automatically and instantly, and we would know who won every election as soon as the pre-set time limit is up, say 6:00 PM on "election day."

As for the worry some people express about privacy or fraud, there would be no more danger of fraud or violation of privacy as on any other secure Web site, such as those used by banks, credit card companies, and the IRS. If paying your taxes, getting a loan, paying your bills, and earning a college degree can take place online in a safe and secure manner, why not voting as well?

For those who do not have access to the Internet at home, there could still be polling stations set up during election days, such as in libraries and county offices. But, really, anywhere that lets you get on a computer could be a polling place. I see no downside, other than the initial expense to set it up and the constant droning of the obligatory nay-sayers who always come out of the closet every time someone suggests making progress. But they will get used to it and eventually embrace it, like they did the automobile - that futuristic contraption that would put livery stables out of business. We have learned to live without livery stables; we can learn to live without paper ballots, chads, and long lines at the polling places.