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Time for Internet Voting?

The House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms in Manila, Philippines approved the proposed Overseas Voting Act of 2023. The Bill would allow overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to vote via the internet. This is great news and I hope other countries, including the United States, will adopt such forward thinking.

One of the politicians behind the Bill said, “Our OFWs and overseas Filipinos, including seafarers, constitute a significant segment of our society, with their economic contribution and the national honor that they bring to the country, and for the sacrifices they endure while working abroad, leaving their loved ones behind. Therefore, we owe them the best, possible, convenient, and securements to exercise their right of suffrage as valued compatriots as fellow Filipinos.”

Data from the Commission on Elections showed only 1.7 million of 12 million OFW voters registered for the 2022 elections and, of the registered voters, only around 600,000 cast their votes. After two consecutive elections those who did not vote would lead to voters’ deactivation. This is not good for a democracy. The problem is even bigger on a global basis.

According to a 2021 report by the International Labor Organization, an estimated 214 million people, or 3.4% of the global workforce, were living and working in a country other than their country of citizenship. The report also found the majority of people working outside of their home countries are highly skilled workers, with a college degree or higher. A study by the Pew Research Center showed an estimated 133 million people who live outside of their home countries are eligible to vote in elections in their home countries. However, only about 30 million of these people actually cast a ballot in the last election they were eligible to vote in. Why is the voting participation so bad?

The low voter turnout among expatriate citizens is due in part to the difficulty of registering to vote, the lack of information about how to vote, and the cost of voting. In 2016, I wrote a book about this problem, Election Attitude – How Internet Voting Leads to a Stronger Democracy. In my research for the book, I found there are many reasons why people who are eligible to vote do not vote. In some cases, the voter did not like any of the choices to vote for, but most of the reasons were related to the difficulty of the process. In addition to overseas citizens, it can be difficult if not impossible for people  with disabilities, people who cannot get away from work or taking care of family members, last minute problems at work or at home, and the list goes on. Millions of American military and overseas workers have been disenfranchised for years. In some cases, there is a process for voting by mail, but the participation is very low because the voters have little confidence their vote would get to the voting precinct on time or not get counted.

There are not many things we can’t do with an app. It is true that online voting is more difficult to implement than banking or even healthcare. However, if we had the political will to make it easier to vote, we could do it and do so in a way which is secure, private, convenient, accurate, and verifiable. Boston based mobile blockchain startup Voatz has deployed its voting technology in six countries where it was used in 125 successful elections serving 2.3+ million voters. There were no successful cyber-attacks or breaches of the system. If you are interested to learn more about the American voting system, take a look at Election Attitude – How Internet Voting Leads to a Stronger Democracy available in Kindle, paperback, hardcover, and Audible. Visit my YouTube channel and you will find a number of videos in which I talk more about this.

Internet voting is going to happen. It is just a matter of time. Although there was little or no fraud during the 2020 election, there were definitely errors due to human counting, lost ballots, shortage of ballots, closed polling places, and millions of people who could have voted but did not. Internet voting can strengthen our democracy. Opponents to Internet voting compare it to a perfect system, which we will never have. We need to instead compare it to the antiquated system we have today.