Should we or shouldn’t we ditch in-person voting?

Whether we want to admit it or not the US presidential elections are an event that shakes the entire world. Therefore, given the fact that the presidential elections of 2020 are closer than ever, I feel compelled to write about them. But worry not, I won’t be delving into every excruciating detail about the candidates (because honestly who has the energy to still be hearing about whatever Trump’s latest tweet is), nor will I be focusing on who is winning the race. Instead, I will be focusing on the reasons why the United States have not yet migrated their elections to a format that is arguably safer today, which is online voting.

I have been quite curious about the reasons why a country might or might not enable electronic voting. Admittedly this curiosity did not necessarily spark in me with the US presidential elections, but with the presidential elections that took place two weeks ago in my home country, Bolivia. With this two events which are taking place in the middle of a global pandemic in mind, I could not help but wonder why is it that most countries have not opted for a safer alternative to in-person voting.

I am aware that the two countries that I have mentioned have different voting procedures. On the one hand, we have the US, where early voting, through a mailing ballot is possible. Though this makes voting a little less daunting, the different requirements for the ballots, which as far as I know vary from State to state, leave most US citizens with a fear that their vote will be cast as invalid. Still with these arguably serious obstacles at least there is an alternative to in-person voting. Whereas on the other hand, we have Bolivia, where voting is mandatory for every person (that is at least 18), and there is no alternative to in-person voting. This leaves everyone with crippling anxiety because even though there was an attempt to keep the distance in the polling stations, most places could not handle with the large amounts of people, making it a coronavirus petri dish.

If the alternatives to online voting are so demotivating in times such as this, why haven’t more countries opted for it? In cases such as in Bolivia, the answer is sort of easy, since a huge amount of the population lives below the poverty line in rural areas with little to no access to an internet connection. With online voting, a significant amount of the population would be deprived of being able to vote. But in a country, such as the United States, which is supposed to be one of the worlds economic powers, why is online voting not yet a thing?

The answer is very straight forward and it is that there are some serious security risks that would come up in the case of online voting.  The cybersecurity in the United States cannot guarantee that the personal information of the voters would remain anonymous. Another risk that would be very prevalent in the case of an online election is that the system could be fairly easily hacked and hence the elections would end up being rigged. [1]

In 2020 there is a need for the alternative of online voting since the procedure would be much safer for our health and much faster. However, there are several reasons as to why most countries have yet to join the list of countries that have implemented this system. Nonetheless, seeing how the world is today, and how much of a risk in-person voting has become, I do hope that eventually, most countries manage to develop the technologies to ensure safe and transparent online voting.


[1] Halpern, Sue. “Why You Can’t Just Vote on Your Phone During the Pandemic”. The New Yorker.com https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/why-you-cant-just-vote-on-your-phone-during-the-pandemic (accessed November 2nd, 2020)

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3 Comments

  • S1962574
    Posted November 4, 2020 at 12:35 pm 0Likes

    Very interesting blog post! I actually very recently watched a video about this topic (which I unfortunately cannot seem to find back), and the system developers in the video said that the safest way of machine voting is a machine that still relies on a ‘paper vote’ (since there is no official record of your vote otherwise, and it can be difficult to prove that the machine, for example, had an error while you were in the process of voting). It also talked about the Bush v. Gore case, in which “over 61,000 ballots [were missed by] the tabulation machines” which prompted a manual recount of these votes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_v._Gore). These kinds of examples also show why online voting isn’t the best option, but I definitely agree with you that voting should be made easier and more accessible for all citizens.

    • S1962574
      Posted November 4, 2020 at 12:39 pm 0Likes

      (I also forgot to mention that this recount was then stopped by the Supreme Court)

  • syliaca
    Posted November 23, 2020 at 9:26 am 0Likes

    I don’t think this is how everyone thinks about democracy but I feel like the vote of a person that has any interest in politics or society should weigh heavier compared to people that are not. I think voting physically is a great way to make sure only these people show up, therefore I’d rather have no online/mail-in voting and only physical voting. As S1962574 mentioned, voting physically in a machine, making sure the votes do not need to go through human hands sounds like an amazing idea to me.

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