by Rebecca Fairley Raney

Electronic voting

Americans never seem to stop looking for a silver bullet to solve the problem of a passive electorate. So the idea of voting from home via Internet attracted jubilant support for a while.

Of course, a lot of smart people took the trouble to think twice about the idea. It's not hard to see the pitfalls, especially if you've ever had to patch a piece of software to make it stop sending obnoxious e-mail to everyone in your address book.

Then we had the 2000 election, which revealed the inherent problem of any technology: It works really well for about 99.99 percent of the time.

Even before 2000, researchers had studied whether technology, in itself, could improve voter turnout. Their conclusion: It doesn't work. It takes a celebrity candidate or a civil rights movement to get more people to vote.

Here are the stories.

"Voting by the Internet: The Mouse Still Hasn't Roared"

IN some parts of Alaska, about the only way to get to a voting booth in January is by dogsled. So to encourage participation in its presidential straw poll last Monday, the Alaska Republican Party tried something different: Internet voting.

The New York Times, Jan. 30, 2000

"Casting Ballots Through the Internet"

AS president of , a start-up company that builds secure Internet voting systems, Jim Adler hears the same question from investors again and again. They don't ask about politics or security. They want to know what would happen if Microsoft moved into the election business.

The New York Times, May 3, 1999

"Study Warns of Risks in Internet Voting"

WITH the warning that "the polling place is about to be abducted by aliens," an election watchdog group this week released a study cautioning policy-makers against blindly backing Internet voting without carefully assessing the potential for fraud.

The New York Times on the Web, Aug. 14, 1999

"Voting on the Web: Not Around the Corner, but on the Horizon"

MARC Strassman first began thinking about Internet voting in 1995. Strassman, a 50-year-old entrepreneur, political activist and occasional Congressional candidate, was in the process of starting a business, and he wanted to file a legal notice online. He soon discovered that an Internet posting didn't satisfy the legal requirement, but the episode got him thinking about the role of the Internet in democracy.

The New York Times, Sept. 17, 1998

"Plan for Internet Voting in Louisiana Falls Apart"

A PLAN among Louisiana Republicans to use the Internet to conduct a caucus vote for Presidential candidates was scrapped last week when the issue became a flash point for a bitter conflict within the party.

The New York Times on the Web, June 22, 1999

"California Takes Up Issue of Online Voting"

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- In the first state-level effort to study the feasibility of an Internet voting system, California's Secretary of State convened a task force on Wednesday to examine the issues involved with casting ballots online.

The New York Times on the Web, March 18, 1999

"California Commission Sees Big Obstacles to Internet Voting"

A STATE commission in California, which is conducting the first state-level study of online voting, will recommend waiting several years before allowing voters to cast ballots online from homes or offices, members of the commission said on Tuesday.

The New York Times on the Web, Dec. 15, 1999

"Don't Rush Into Online Voting, California Panel Says"

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- After 10 months of research and deliberation, a state commission in California said Tuesday that security risks were too significant to allow voters to cast ballots from home or office over the Internet.

The New York Times on the Web, Jan. 18, 2000

"Suit Seeks to Block Net Vote in Arizona"

CITING lack of equal access to the Internet among minority voters, a civic group filed a federal lawsuit on Friday to block the Arizona Democratic Party's plan to allow members to vote via Internet in their March primary.

The New York Times on the Web, Jan. 22, 2000

"Judge Lets Arizona Internet Primary Proceed"

A FEDERAL judge ruled late Tuesday that Arizona Democrats would be allowed to cast ballots on the Internet from home in their presidential primary next week, despite a lawsuit from a voting rights group that sought to block the online voting on the grounds that it could discriminate against minorities.

The New York Times on the Web, March 1, 2000

"After Arizona Vote, Online Elections Still Face Obstacles"

LOOKING back a week after the Arizona Democratic Party, with great pomp and publicity, allowed its members to cast ballots by Internet, election officials in other states caution that online voting faces substantial hurdles if it is to be made available to the general public.

The New York Times on the Web, March 21, 2000

More Net/politics coverage:

Internet campaigning

In the early days, scholars watched the Web for signs that it could compete with television as a tool of persuasion. But campaign managers quickly learned that the value of the medium lay elsewhere.

(33 stories)


What is the role of the Internet in a representative government? Can fast online communication improve the dialogue between people and politicians? Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't.

(22 stories)

E-government and campaign donors online

Local, state and federal governments have pushed information and services online at a rapid pace. That push is changing people's perceptions of government.

(22 stories)


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