Voting With Paper or Internet: Which is Better?
Press articles about Internet voting abound. The articles quote technology experts who are worried about the theoretical risks of Internet voting, mobile or otherwise. They correctly say the Internet is not perfect. But, neither is the paper-base system we have. The anti-Internet voting activists continue to compare Internet voting to a perfect world which we will never have. They fail to compare it to the old fashioned paper based system which is now the preferred method to vote. How good is the paper based approach?
This past week’s Democratic primaries in Texas and California showed some of the imperfections of current voting methods. For many voters, the primaries were a nightmare. Some lines were up to six hours long. CNN reported voters walked away because they could not wait any longer. Axios reported, “Long wait times put a special hardship on low-income voters who are less likely to have flexible work hours, around-the-clock transportation and child care.” Another problem is southern states have closed 1,200 polling sites, presumably because of the cost to maintain them. It is no coincidence the closed polling sites had mostly been for Latino and black citizens, many of whom could not get to the alternate polling sites.
The paper based voting systems have numerous problems. The Los Angeles Times reported, “In California, machine jams slowed the rolls, delaying lines up to two hours.” Errors in voter registration forced voters to cast paper provisional ballots which would not be counted until the voter registration was confirmed manually. Voters were also confused about how to use the new voting machines. In some races, the voter had to click “more” to see additional candidates on the voting machine screen. At some voting locations, voting machines just flat out did not work.
We should not trust Internet voting, but we should trust the paper based approach? But wait, there is more. Western states have been pushing early voting my mail for years. It has grown rapidly. The number of early votes cast for Super Tuesday Democratic primaries was 4 million. In California, the early votes were 40%. Many of the votes were wasted because Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Tom Steyer dropped out after the early voters had cast their ballot. Many voters were quite disappointed they could not change their vote. With Internet voting, they could have. In fact, with Internet voting a citizen can vote as many times as they want up until the polls close. The last vote is the only one which counts.
We put a robot on Mars, 34 million miles away, and it is still roaming the Red Planet. We can also make Internet voting safe, secure, private, accurate, accessible, reliable, and verifiable. All we need to do state by state and county by county is to develop detailed plans, select vendors which have the best technology, and test, test, test. The only other thing we need is the political and technological will to make it easier for the many millions of people who couldn’t get to the polls or wasted votes by casting paper ballots early.