Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Electronic Elections

Electronic Elections: The Perils and Promises of Digital Democracy

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 256
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Electronic Elections
    Book Description:

    Since the 2000 presidential election, the United States has been embroiled in debates about electronic voting. Critics say the new technologies invite tampering and fraud. Advocates say they enhance the accuracy of vote counts and make casting ballots easier--and ultimately foster greater political participation.Electronic Electionscuts through the media spin to assess the advantages and risks associated with different ways of casting ballots--and shows how e-voting can be the future of American democracy.

    Elections by nature are fraught with risk. Michael Alvarez and Thad Hall fully examine the range of past methods and the new technologies that have been created to try to minimize risk and accurately reflect the will of voters. Drawing upon a wealth of new data on how different kinds of electronic voting machines have performed in recent elections nationwide, they evaluate the security issues that have been the subject of so much media attention, and examine the impacts the new computer-based solutions is having on voter participation. Alvarez and Hall explain why the benefits of e-voting can outweigh the challenges, and they argue that media coverage of the new technologies has emphasized their problems while virtually ignoring their enormous potential for empowering more citizens to vote. The authors also offer ways to improve voting technologies and to develop more effective means of implementing and evaluating these systems.

    Electronic Electionsmakes a case for how e-voting can work in the United States, showing why making it work right is essential to the future vibrancy of the democratic process.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3408-2
    Subjects: Political Science, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-11)

    Before the 2004 election, there was a blizzard of media coverage about the potential problems associated with electronic voting. Claims were made that the machines would lose your votes or would be hacked. Democrats and Republicans alike used these potential problems as a mechanism for mobilizing voters. For example, the Florida Republican Party sent out fliers in 2004 that said: “The liberal Democrats have already begun their attacks and the new electronic voting machines do not have a paper ballot to verify your vote in case of a recount. Make sure your vote counts. Order your absentee ballot today.” Likewise,...

  2. (pp. 12-29)

    We commonly have people ask us, What is so difficult about running an election? Having heard this question so many times, we have a good guess that the next question is: Why can’t we just vote on paper ballots? Sometimes, people do surprise us, like twenty-seven-year-old Catherine Getches from Santa Rosa, California, who wrote theLos Angeles Timesto ask why we vote in such an antiquated way. Like many others, she expresses frustration with the way we are forced to vote:

    It was Super Tuesday when I realized that the Urban Outfitters’ tee that had at first annoyed me...

  3. (pp. 30-49)

    In this chapter, we discuss the recent criticisms of electronic voting. To highlight the fears of electronic voting, we begin with a fictionalized story that illustrates the concerns of some critics.

    It is early in the morning on November 5, 2008. With no incumbent in the race, both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates have been running neck and neck in the polls all year. As the early election results start rolling in, the election is again extremely close and the pundits start to rave about how close the Electoral College vote will be. By two thirty on the East...

  4. (pp. 50-70)

    In the aftermath of the 2000 election, there were many calls for electronic voting. After all, many of the problems producing the 2000 election debacle arose due to the use of paper-based voting systems. There were punch card ballots that may or may not have contained a vote, depending on your view of how pregnant a “chad” could be before it gave birth to an actual vote. There were optical scan ballots where a stray mark next to a second candidate’s name created an overvote, or a voter putting an “X” in the oval next to a candidate’s name instead...

  5. (pp. 71-99)

    When we publishedPoint, Click, and Vote: The Future of Internet Votingin January 2004, we had little idea that we should have been publishing the book in Europe, not the United States. In the book, we discussed the potential benefits of Internet voting and laid out a road map for how policy makers could conduct experiments to learn how Internet voting could be utilized to address the voting needs of special populations, especially military personnel, overseas civilians, individuals with disabilities, and similar groups who have had difficulty voting under the current voting process. The road map we lay out...

  6. (pp. 100-132)

    In 2004 there was one primary election where voting fraud was alleged to have altered the outcomes of an election. In Texas, Democrat representative Ciro Rodriguez alleged that fraud in a recount caused his 145-vote victory in a primary to turn into a 203-vote defeat (Mock 2004). The irregularities? First, the vote total in the challenger’s hometown exceeded by 115 votes the total number of voters who were recorded as having cast ballots. Second, 304 uncounted ballots were “found” after the election and three-fourths were cast for the challenger. Were these lost and found ballots electronic? Actually, they were paper-based...

  7. (pp. 133-155)

    In an announcement in the summer of 2004, Gilead Sciences—a leading biopharmaceutical company that develops and sells innovative antiviral drugs including Tamiflu—was added to the Standard and Poor’s 500 Index, a widely watched stock market index. This stock index is designed to cover market-leading companies in leading industries, especially of the so-called large-capitalization component of the stock market.¹ Selection to be included in the S&P 500 index indicates recognition that Gilead is a top company in its industrial sector, a company that in 2004 generated total revenues of just over a billion dollars. In 2004 Gilead reported spending...

  8. (pp. 156-177)

    The current debate about electronic voting and voting technology generally is hindered by the lack of a clear and coherent risk assessment model. Critics of electronic voting argue that direct recording equipment (DRE) is too risky to be used, but these critics also fail to provide a baseline level of risk from which to evaluate electronic voting. In short, they fail to address the question, Riskier than what? or to subject the baseline technology—paper-based voting—to the same scrutiny. Critics simply assert that there is a risk to voting on DREs but do not provide real assessment of the...

  9. (pp. 178-190)

    In this book, we have identified the key issues associated with the use of electronic voting and voting technologies. In the United States, these issues will not disappear; the debates over electronic voting are likely to become more divisive over the next several years, not less. However, the nation has made tremendous progress over the past seven years in understanding many of the issues associated with election technology. Most beneficially, we are starting to understand that voting technology is not the beginning and ending of elections. Because the human factor is a critical part of the elections process, a focus...