Internet Voting an Issue in Massachusetts SoS Race

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[Image courtesy of dynamicdentalsafety]

Most of the political media’s focus on the 2014 General Election is on the battle for control of the U.S. Senate, but in states across the country the job of chief state election official is also up for grabs.

In Massachusetts, the race for Secretary of State is heating up as incumbent William Galvin and his opponent David D’Arcangelo are trading blows about the wisdom and feasibility of moving the Bay State to Internet voting. Statehouse News Service has more:

Saying online voting is an attainable means to increase ballot access overseas, Republican candidate for secretary of state David D’Arcangelo took aim Monday at the Democratic incumbent who has occupied the office since 1995 …

D’Arcangelo said under Galvin, despite public service announcements, voter registration “has been flat,” and accused the Democrat of failing to make himself accessible through Twitter and email, and to provide adequate ballot access to soldiers overseas.

A Malden city councilor who is legally blind, D’Arcangelo said he could show through a new website www.voteinmass.com that online voting, through secure terminals, would work.

Internet voting opponents and Galvin disagree:

Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause for Massachusetts, said electronic voting is “not ready for primetime,” and isn’t used in any states, though it is something computer scientists are working toward.

“I think the advocates are not interested particularly in pursuing it until the technology is there,” Wilmot told the News Service. Noting the dangers of rushing technology, she said the state’s system of optical scanners works well, creating a paper record that can be essential for recounting close elections.

Galvin noted Helios, the site that runs D’Arcangelo’s mock-up ballots, recommends “against capturing votes over the Internet.” The site says there are security concerns with personal computers.

“Basically what he engaged in was techno-babble and we don’t entrust elections to techno-babblers,” Galvin said.

D’Arcangelo is pressing the point, however, suggesting that the lack of interest in exploring online voting is symptomatic of a larger lack of movement by Galvin, who has held the job since 1995:

D’Arcangelo said Galvin hadn’t made efforts in the online voting arena, and said, “The point is it can be done.” He said, “Is this going live tomorrow? No …”

D’Arcangelo crunched numbers on a spreadsheet, which found the percentage of the population actually voting increased by less than half a percentage point from 2002 to 2006 and then again from 2006 to 2010. The percentage of the population voting increased by 3.75 percent from 1998 to 2002 and dropped 5.75 percent from 1994 to 1998 …

[He] said secure terminals would be necessary for online voting, while saying electronic voting is “just as, if not more, secure than voting in person.” He said the paper system for absentee voting is “cumbersome” and “costly,” and described the state’s current process for verifying voters’ identities as “capricious and vague.”

The challenger likely has an uphill battle (according to the article, his campaign reportedly has about $8,500 on hand while Galvin has almost $2.5 million) so it isn’t surprising that he is trying to grab attention by pushing hard on the hot-button issue of online voting. It will be interesting to see if it generates any new meaningful discussion – but if nothing else, it is a sign of the times that online voting is emerging as a potential campaign issue.

Stay tuned …

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