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What is Internet Voting?

By Tara Barnett
Updated May 17, 2024
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Internet voting, a type of electronic voting, is a method of casting votes for an election or other contest using online resources. The precise technology involved in Internet voting differs by the area using it and the security required for the contest, but the process usually involves verifying a person's identity and voting from a number of options. Additional security measures are often used as well, particularly when the voting apparatus is used for political elections rather than recreational contests. Primary opposition to Internet voting for serious elections stems from the vulnerability of such systems to hacking, as well as the perceived loss of certainty due to the lack of a physical ballot.

One of the primary requirements for Internet voting is access to a computer. In areas where this is not a problem due to an abundance of technological resources, many people believe that being able to vote over the Internet encourages voter turnout. Internet voting has been used successfully in some areas, but there are still claims that tampering may be a problem even in those elections. People who are opposed to Internet voting due to this lack of security sometimes attempt to hack prototype systems in order to demonstrate vulnerability to manufacturers and users.

For expatriates and other people far from home during elections, Internet voting can prevent ballots from getting lost or arriving late. This issue is especially important considering how far human populations may some day travel. Astronauts are sometimes allowed to vote via email over the Internet because there is no other possible way for them to vote. Voting over the Internet may be one way for people who are separated from their home planet to continue to have a voice in the politics of the Earth.

In both philosophical and practical ways, voting over the Internet is problematic because there is no physical ballot. Many electronic voting strategies suffer from this problem, but users often see the Internet as intangible, making the concern over the disappearance of ballots extremely widespread. Anyone who has ever accidentally deleted an email or a file understands how the data that determines who takes a powerful political office might be lost in a similar way.

Most people acknowledge that at some point voting over the Internet will be nearly unbeatable in its security and accessibility. The problem over which most people disagree is at what point technology can be said to be secure enough. In practice, it will likely take many errors and challenged voting periods before a suitable arrangement has been reached.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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