Analysts Predict Internet Voting Standard by 2004

SAN DIEGO (04/11/2000) - Gartner Group Inc. today predicted at its Spring Symposium/ITxpo here that all 50 U.S. states will offer Internet voting in 2004, stating that much of the infrastructure is already in place to allow some form of electronic voting using a Web-capable device.

"We are looking at a golden age of universal voting in a secure environment," said Christopher Baum, vice president of electronic government at Gartner Group. "Internet-based voting could increase access and opportunities for people on all economic levels."

"We have a ubiquitous access to the Internet and what you get is universal suffrage," Baum added.

The current voting process requires a large amount of manual efforts, ranging from running polling places to counting punched and mailed-in ballots. The speed of the Internet and the ability to utilize centralized databases make e-voting not only more efficient than the current process, but also less costly and time-consuming, Baum said.

The Democratic Party of Arizona this year was the first to jump in to Internet voting, holding the first online presidential primary using election.com. The party recorded its highest voter turnout ever and experienced no major problems from a technical standpoint.

"In Arizona the polls closed at 7 p.m. and the Internet voting results were ready at 7:14 p.m.," Baum said. "People now expect results at Internet speed; that was the case in Arizona."

To prepare electronic voting as a nationwide option in 2004, Gartner listed three security risks the government must address: system outages, fraud, and attacks from hackers. Analysts said that the government will need to have sufficient resources to prevent failure and a sophisticated user-recognition program that will ensure only the appropriate people are casting ballots in a particular vote, and only doing it once.

Gartner analysts specifically listed electronic ballot stuffing as a major concern, accomplished by a misrepresentation from the application server or pre-loading the database with fraudulent records.

The ability to vote from anywhere, Gartner analysts said, relieves a tremendous burden placed on the working class who must travel to balloting locations or mail their votes in. With U.S. President Bill Clinton in the middle of his campaign to close the "digital divide" and open access to technology for lower-income Americans, all voters would benefit from online voting regardless of economic standing, according to Gartner.

"We are looking at the effects of a digital divide," Baum said. "People who are white have more access to the Internet at home than people of color do at work even. It is an economic issue."

Additionally, President Clinton will close up his digital divide campaign next week at the Spring Comdex show in Chicago. His presence there will be the first time a president has addressed IT professionals at a major conference.

The success of the Arizona primary likely will serve as an example for other states in the next major election, Baum said. Issuing individual pin numbers to registered voters will likely serve as the immediate method of voter identification until a better system is found or technology provides other alternatives, he added.

Gartner Group, in Stamford, Connecticut, can be found at http://www.gartnergroup.com/.

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