Electronic elections: impossible or inevitable?

Haley Archer, Senior Writer

Finally, a modern voting system fit for all Americans—or, the downfall of democracy.
Online voting has been a contentious issue in elections worldwide since its debut in Estonia in 2005. Proponents of the system argue that online voting allows a greater number of people to participate in elections, especially those unable to cast ballots in person because of bad weather or poor health. Allowing people to vote online also simplifies the voting process for people living or traveling overseas. In this way, online voting is seen as a way to further democracy and increase already-low American voter participation.
However, switching to online ballots in the United States is more complicated and riskier than it may seem on the surface. Hacking is a common threat brought up by anti-online advocates: although unlikely, if a voting system is hacked, the integrity of the election is compromised. Also, voter registration can be more difficult online, and some believe that voter fraud could run rampant.
Further concern over the use of online voting has arisen following recent attempts at modernizing the voting process. At the beginning of February, the Iowa Caucuses came under fire after their failed use of a voting app. Criticized for being hastily developed and difficult to use, the app led to inconsistencies in voter data. The release of the official caucus results was delayed for three days, leading to widespread confusion and a lack of confidence in the results that were finally announced. To those opposing online voting, the problems in Iowa solidified the argument against increased technology in democratic participation.
Still, the case for online voting remains. In Washington, the King Conservation District became the first area in the United States to offer all-online ballots accessible by smartphone. The pilot program was a success, and it is likely that this will be the first of many further online elections.
As the American voting system begins to modernize, there is no clear course of action looking ahead. It is likely, however, that many of us could be voting online in the near future.