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National Issues

Internet Votingin Hawaii: Aloha Means 'Goodbye' Too PDF Print Email
By John H. Fund   
June 04, 2009
"Internet voting is potentially prone to manipulation and distortion."

This article originally appeared in the Hawaii Reporter.

Penny wise, pound foolish. That looks to be the result of Honolulu's experiment with saving money by holding the first all-digital election, in which voters cast ballots over the Internet or by phone for their Neighborhood Commissions. The result? An 83% drop in voter turnout. Only 7,300 people bothered to register their preferences last week, down from 44,000 who voted in the last elections two years ago.

"That is of great concern to me. It is disappointing, compared to two years ago," said Joan Manke, who headed the commission that supervised the Internet voting. "This is the first time there is no paper ballot to speak of."

Granted, the use of electronic voting did save money, but it appears people are unwilling to embrace the concept yet. But that does not faze Bob Watada, a consultant for Everyone Counts, which sold city officials on using its equipment for the election.

 

All-digital voting "gives access to a lot of people who haven't had the access, and you don't have the hanging chads, you don't have the miscounted absentee ballots, you don't have the ballots lost," he told reporters.

Well, maybe. But with fears about the security of electronic voting machines still widespread, Internet voting is potentially prone to manipulation and distortion. In addition, something is lost when an election becomes a mere exercise in clicking a computer mouse.

We have come a long way from when voting was held on the same day by having citizens of all social classes gather in the same spot to cast their ballots. I am not sure if we want to dispense with that tradition so easily -- especially if it leads to fewer votes being cast.

 

John Fund is an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal

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