The national Democratic party has approved the use of Internet polling for conducting the state Democratic Presidential caucus in February. The plan is controversial: some complain that this gives an unfair advantage to those who have better Internet access. If you support Howard Dean, who's used the Web to organize supporters and donors far more effectively than other candidates, you like the plan. Other than Wesley Clark, all the other contenders for the Presidential nomination denounce it.
My friend Mark Grebner, far more expert about elections than I will ever be, says the concerns are misplaced because:
-- The instructions for voting online are mailed to caucus voters along with a paper ballot. Voters can vote by mail, in person, or online.
-- This is not a secret ballot. If there were allegations of fraud, the record of how an individual voted could be reviewed during a challenge.
Along with Grebner and myself, the piece quotes the Michigan Secretary of State, Terri Land, and others. Land opposes Internet voting for general elections. I agree wholeheartedly. This is a different situation. It's a party caucus, not a primary or a general election; if you worry about caucuses representing the will of party members, go immediately to Iowa and do not pass Go. The Michigan Democratic caucus scheme lets you vote by mail, by Internet, or in person at hundreds of union halls and other sites statewide. No one among the party faithful is disenfranchised or disadvantaged.
See this article excerpt:
Richard Wiggins, a senior information technologist at the Michigan State University Computer Center, added:
"Nothing in the world of computing is ever 100 percent secure. Security experts would say, 'How much risk are you willing to undergo and how much are you willing to spend to see that people only vote once
and that votes are correctly tabulated?'
"But we can't be 100 percent assured that whatever system we use cannot possibly be tampered with."
Michigan's chief election official, Secretary of State Terri Land, said she's not interested in statewide Internet voting any time soon.
"There are so many different ways bad things could happen," Land said.
Mark Grebner, an East Lansing-based voter list consultant, countered that potential for tampering is minimized partly because voters must identify themselves.
He added that most voters are likely to use mail-in ballots, diminishing the digital divide issue.