National News

Voting Online in America

Even though technology is prevalent in American society, Americans still cannot vote online, and it does not seem like it is going to change for the 2016 presidential elections.

The procedure in which American votes has not been changed for decades, which entails voters having to come to a town hall, fill in paper ballots, and spend some of their time waiting in a long line to vote.

Even though this process is easy and relatively safe in regards to alteration of the votes, it might not be the most efficient system taking into account all the changes that the world has experienced during the last century. In 2012, about 53.6 percent of people who were of voting age did not exercise their right, according to pewresearch.org.

One of the most important issues in the whole process might be that it requires time and not everybody is willing to sacrifice their time to go out and vote. This is especially true because, in today’s world, services that use technology, such as online banking and online shopping, allow for everyday tasks to be done in seconds.

“I would [vote online]; one because I am [a] college student; it’s just easy because I can log on and vote … instead of driving back home. It can be more convenient because it is efficient. It’s faster,” said Megan Howell, junior social work major.

Online voting, which is tested by other countries, may encourage more Americans to vote; however, it is still not available and not approved by the federal government.

Even though online voting could be a game changer in regards to the participation in the elections, there are still many issues and concerns that have to be addressed before a single digital ballot will be sent online in this country.

One of the most important concerns associated with online voting is security. Neither the federal government nor the voters themselves want the votes to be captured and altered by anyone. The voting process has to be confidential, efficient, and reliable.

“We believe that online voting, especially online voting in large scale, introduces great risk into the election system by threatening voters’ expectations of confidentiality, accountability and security of their votes and provides an avenue for malicious actors to manipulate the voting results,” said Neil Jenkins, an official in the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications at the Department of Homeland Security, according to the Washington Post.

Manipulation of the votes could have a great impact on the final result of elections. However, some people might be wondering why is it so difficult to provide a secured system for online voting if things, such as online transactions, are done on a daily basis. Some people may also wonder why online voting can’t be treated like an online banking if both require security.

Both online voting and online transactions have to be auditable, which means that the process might be thoroughly checked; and if something goes wrong, it can be discovered. However, the difference between the two processes is that online voting has to be anonymous. The level of confidentiality is not the same in regards to online banking, and according to a report presented by Atlantic Council in 2014, the conditions required for secure online voting concerning confidentiality are not compatible with the current technologies.

Another issue associated with the process is that online voting is it is not reversible. If something goes wrong during an online transaction, in many cases, the money can be reimbursed to the person who was affected by the issue. However, if something goes wrong during the online voting process and if it happens on a large scale, the election process has to be done once again, only if the problem is discovered.

Despite all the security issues, many other countries have already decided to use online voting as their primary elections system. Countries, such as Australia, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, and Norway have been experimenting and introducing online voting systems since 2000.

For example, in Canada, online voting has been introduced in all cities and towns during municipal elections, according to CNN. A report presented by digital-strategy firm Delvina showed that internet voting increased the voters’ participation by 300 percent compared to previous elections. The overall turnout in 2010 was nearly 10 percent bigger than in 2006. However, a security breach that Canada encountered in 2012 during the primary elections might be an example that online voting is not an entirely secured process yet. Hackers managed to break into the system and affect the elections. As a result, Canada decided to stop further experimentation with online voting until no later than 2015, according to verifiedvoting.org.

Similar problems have been discovered in other countries that had decided to adopt online voting. Even though some people might argue that the current, regular voting system is not entirely safe either, online voting as a new technology that has not been fully tested yet brings many more concerns.

“My position hasn’t changed over the years, which is that online voting is a very unsafe idea and a very bad idea and something I think no technological breakthrough I can foresee can ever change,” said Avi Rubin, a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, according to CNN. “People’s computers are not getting more secure, they’re getting more infected with viruses. They’re getting more under the control of malware.”

Despite all the issues that online voting might entail, since technology is evolving, it is very probable that a solution for a secure online voting process will soon be invented as well.

Because the lifestyle of many people has changed so much over the last few decades, it is probable that the process of voting will be adjusted to accommodate a larger turnout. Not only could it encourage those who are not willing to sacrifice their time to vote, but also it could help the disabled and elderly people to take part in the elections as they would not even have to leave their houses.

“I look at my daughters, who are, as every teenage kid is today, completely fluent in technology and social media. They might not go to a town hall meeting physically, the way their grandmother might have around some issue, and sit through a two-hour debate. Because they’re just used to things moving faster. But we can imagine creating a corollary process for them that is consistent with how they interact generally. We can think of apps that promote engagement and the power of people,” said President Barack Obama in an interview for followmyvote.com.

The statement clearly demonstrates that the current president supports the idea behind online voting. Perhaps, it will take few more years before the first federal online voting process will be introduced in the United States. However, if the technology continues to develop the happening might be inevitable.

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