States Mull Online Voting, Debate Security Risks

John Lister's picture

Iowa Democrats are considering using online voting in primary elections for 2016. It follows two separate moves to increase online voting in Utah.

The Iowa Democrat officials raised the idea during a meeting of the Democrat National Committee. They want to introduce online voting for the primaries, in which local Democrat supporters indicate which candidates they want to represent the party in the presidential election.

The Iowa officials believe adding online voting could help involve people who are state residents but can't vote in person, such as military staff away on service or those with physical disabilities. The idea is still in development, so it's not clear yet exactly who would qualify.

Such a move would be particularly notable because Iowa is significant in two ways. Firstly, it's traditionally the first state to hold a primary and is thus seen as a major early test for potential candidates. Secondly, its primary voting is done through a caucus system, meaning most voting is done in person at a meeting rather than through a ballot.

Disabled Voters To Get Online Ballot

Meanwhile Utah has dropped plans to introduce online voting in all primaries as a way of streamlining the process. The idea was that this would allow Utah to move its primary to the start of the year and beat Iowa to the punch.

However, Salt Lake County in Utah has decided to introduce online voting for people with disabilities who find it difficult to attend a polling location. Officials believe that as well as helping disabled people, the move will serve as a good test of the technology and processes involved. (Source:

Online voting isn't completely new in the United States. Back in 2004, Michigan Democrats allowed it for primary voting, though in that case it worked via emails. It's similar to the way military personnel can currently send a scan of a printed ballot in PDF (portable document format).

Security Risks Still Under Debate

The new proposals are more tailored to people simply clicking on-screen buttons. The idea is to replicate electronic voting machines, with the only difference being that voters can use their own computers rather than having to go to a polling location.

Such proposals consistently raise security concerns, however. A 2010 trial of Internet-based voting in the District of Columbia had to be abandoned after the system was hacked by a computer studies class in Michigan. The students made their point by remotely configuring the system so that all online voters heard the official "fight song" of University of Michigan sports teams. They also changed some ballots to make it look as if the voter had selected a write-in vote, using names of characters from science fiction movies and TV shows. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Would you like to see more online voting in elections? Do you think it would make voting more convenient and help increase turnout? Or, are you worried that it would increase the risk of electoral fraud, such as third-parties (including corrupt government officials or hackers) tampering with the results?

Rate this article: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)


Navy vet's picture

What could go wrong?

dan_2160's picture

Appealing as it might sound, online voting is an open invitation for actual election fraud -- unlike the nonexistent voter impersonation that the POM's (Party of Misery, formerly known as the GOP) voter suppression laws (oops, I mean voter ID laws) supposedly address. The idea of online voting is just another case of officials doing something they think is trendy rather than engaging in careful analysis to determine whether there really is any need for it and, if so, whether online voting can actually be secure and safe from fraud. As all the online data breaches have shown, the Internet is inherently far from secure and oneline voting would be an open invitation for actual voting fraud.

MidwestMillian's picture

From the paper by the lead computer scientist on the team that hacked the DC voting system:

"This paper describes our experience participating in this
trial. Within 48 hours of the system going live, we had gained nearcomplete
control of the election server. We successfully changed every vote
and revealed almost every secret ballot. Election officials did not detect
our intrusion for nearly two business days—and might have remained
unaware for far longer had we not deliberately left a prominent clue."

Dennis Faas's picture

Thanks for pointing that out. The article has been updated.

richardls's picture

They want to do what? Of course the Demo's want online voting, no voter ID, illegals voting emass, multiple votes per voter, what possibly could go wrong?