The nation's first all-digital election was deemed a success by Honolulu's city officials over the weekend. According to the Associated Press:
"Some 115,000 voters in Honolulu's neighborhood council election were able to pick winners entirely online or via telephone. The voting, which started May 6, ended Friday.
City officials say the experiment appears to have generated few problems; it has even saved the financially strapped city around $100,000."
Despite reports that describe the cost savings, ease of use and benefits to overseas and military voters, the same online election process cannot currently be used for city council or state elections in Hawaii because there is no paper record of votes.
The technology infrastructure and web voting process for the election was provided by Everyone Counts, a company that has managed online elections worldwide. The Everyone Counts website had this to say about the Honolulu Internet vote:
"The City and County of Honolulu are currently holding the United States' first all-digital election conducted entirely online and via telephone. Using Everyone Counts' trusted and secure voting solution, the City and County of Honolulu aims to decrease costs and increase voter participation in its 2009 Neighborhood Board Election through Everyone Counts' commitment to universal access. By offering an all-digital voting system, Everyone Counts provides previously disenfranchised voters, such as military and overseas voters, and voters with disabilities, access to a convenient, secure and reliably counted ballot. The voting period for the Neighborhood Board Election opened May 6 and will extend through May 22."
News video coverage of the vote was also available at KGMB9's website. The video contrasts the new process with more expensive vote by mail methods. The results are expected on Tuesday, May 24.
So is this the wave of the future? There are excellent arguments on both sides of this electronic voting debate. With an exploding amount of identity theft in America, it's hard to see this approach being used for the November 2010 elections across the USA. Nevertheless, this could be a first major step towards online voting.
In my opinion, the goal of increased participation by using the Internet, along with the potential for reduced costs, will drive governments to take a hard look at adopting new technology to make e-Voting a reality over the next few years. What's missing is the new infrastructure to ensure verified identities for all citizens online and the state government infrastructure to eliminate e-voting fraud. More on this in future blogs.
So what are your thoughts? Are we heading for electronic hanging chads? Is this a positive development in your opinion? More important, what new technology infrastructure is your government exploring in this area?