• Lorrie Cranor, AT&T Labs, Moderator
  • Joe Mohen, CEO of
  • Joe Adler, President and CEO of
  • Gary McIntosh, National Association of State Election Directors
  • Deborah Phillips, Voting Integrity Project
  • Tony Wilhelm, the Benton Foundation

Americans are increasingly using the Internet to learn about and participate in government. We are now filing taxes, applying for student loans, and seeking jobs online. Using the Internet for voting, however, is only beginning to be feasible. Several private organizations have tried online voting and recently political parties have conducted experiments of their own, with varying results. An industry of e-voting service providers has sprung up to meet this demand and several technologies furnished by these companies are now available for private and public elections. Along with increased interest and availability, the debate has intensified over the efficacy of online voting, particular methods of online voting, the reliability of those methods, and the meaning of democracy in the online environment.

Proponents argue that e-voting can increase voter turnout and reach people who would not vote if they had to go to a fixed polling site. And while most agree that voting is a natural extension of online society, fundamental questions as to how valid elections would be carried out have yet to be answered. Concerns over security pit the privacy of voters and ballots against the need for authentication of registered voters. Additionally, over-all system integrity can be threatened by hackers and DoS attacks. The scale and reliability required by civic elections challenges companies further. E-voting companies must answer these challenges to gain the confidence of voters and the regulatory approval of government election officials before any of us will be casting a presidential ballot on our home PC.

By presenting a panel discussion of these issues, we hope to add to the debate over online voting and introduce people to the spectrum of problems, solutions, and concerns surrounding it. We will present the state of the art in e-voting technology and case studies in implementation of that technology in the Arizona Democratic Primary and Alaska Republican Straw Poll. In addition, speakers will address the socio-political issues involved in online democracy, such as the digital divide, consumer confidence in technology, and factors in increasing voter turnout. Finally, we hope to give a sense of the possibilities presented by online elections, and understand what must be achieved before the laptop replaces the voting booth.

To provide this adequate understanding, we will need a panel with a wide range of experience and understanding. Representatives from the companies at the forefront of the election industry will examine the technology that would be used in an online election. Public interest activists will explore the shortcomings of the current available means, and the wider issues involved in migrating the democratic process to the web. Government elections officials will offer their perspectives on regulatory concerns. These presentations, and questions by attendees, will frame the issues presented by e-voting, and help to further our understanding of online democracy.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash