NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Arizona To Test Online Voting

December 21, 1999

Observers worldwide will be watching the Arizona Democratic Party's primary election next spring. In what is billed as the world's first online election, the party will nominate candidates for the November 2000 election via the Internet.

  • Arizona Democrats expect 50,000 people to cast ballots, five times the number who generally participate, and they estimate about 95 percent of those will cast votes online.
  • Computers will be available at every polling place; however, voters can still request paper ballots.
  • Those voting online at home can log on to the election website using an encrypted, personalized digital certificate that identifies the individual voter., the company that is coordinating the on-line voting, has drafted an initiative in California which -- if organizers gather more than 400,000 signatures -- will be put on that state's ballot in 2000.

But critics say this is yet another attempt to boost participation by slothful citizens, on the theory that if voting were made easier, more people would vote. Experience shows such measures don't work:

  • In the 1970s, the 26th Amendment, lowering the voting age to 18, was supposed to be a shot in the arm for America's disaffected democracy; but instead it showed 18-year-olds don't vote.
  • Later motor-voter -- allowing anyone to register to vote when getting a driver's license or applying for welfare -- increased voter registration, but actual voting in the 1996 election fell to 36 percent of eligible voters.
  • Last November Oregonians approved scrapping voting booths and conducting all elections by mail.

In some of the countries whose high voter turnouts are contrasted with the laggard Americans, they slap a fine on those who don't vote. That would send turnout soaring too, note critics.

Source: Lisa Chiu, "Online primary vote to make history," Arizona Republic, December 17, 1999; Jeff Jacoby, "The Danger of On-Line Voting," Boston Globe, December 16, 1999.


Browse more articles on Government Issues