TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Politicians See E-Voting as a Remote Prospect

Politicians See E-Voting as a Remote Prospect

Lisa Minter (
Fri, 5 Nov 2004 10:54:30 EST

BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) -

Forget the hi-tech predictions -- it will be years, if ever, before
electors can use the Internet to vote, many policymakers believe.

The prediction is bad news for technology firms hoping to introduce
e-voting to the masses. Worse still, long queues at polling stations,
like those seen this week in the United States presidential election,
look like being around for a long time.

"You will never see absentee voting conducted online -- ever," said
Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, a Republican in Virginia's state
senate. "As long as there is any question somebody can tamper with the
vote it will never happen," she told Reuters at a security conference

The high turnout in the U.S. election bucked a trend on both sides of
the Atlantic toward falling numbers of people bothering to vote over
recent years.

Voter apathy in Britain, for example, has been especially marked in
local contests, prompting the government to launch a number of pilot
trials of Internet or text-message voting in minor elections to
increase turnout.

But despite assurances that this kind of remote voting can be
protected against fraud, suspicions persist.

The European Union, which has committed vast sums to so-called
e-government initiatives to cut through red tape, is not even
considering e-voting at the moment.

Reinhard Posch, chief information officer for the Austrian government,
also thinks old-fashioned paper ballots are here to stay.

"It's all about trust and the digital divide," he said.

In the United States and throughout Europe, voting procedures are
determined by states or local governments. Most often, amending the
process requires a change in the law.

While more sophisticated touch-screen voting kiosks have come into use
lately, they, crucially, need the voter to be present in the booth.

So, while millions of TV viewers use the Internet or their mobile
phone to evict a member of the "Big Brother" house or a "Pop Idol"
hopeful, politicians prefer to stick with the old-fashioned method of
queuing at the polls.

As Devolites Davis put it: "if the lawmakers don't trust it, it's not
going to happen."

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