Monday, November 2, 2009

Internet Voting and Smart Initiatives Now

Since I tried, and failed, to win public support for Internet voting and Smart Initiatives between 1996 and 2000, several things have happened that might make re-visiting these efforts worthwhile.

The principle objection to Internet voting at the time was that it would open the electoral process up to massive fraud. But shortly after I terminated my efforts in this regard, George W. Bush became President of the U.S. through a blatantly fraudulent election, and then led the US into a morass of political, economic, and moral ruin. Just today, Hamid Karzai “won” an election in Afghanistan during which his side saw to it that one-third of the votes he “received” were fraudulent. Apparently, one doesn’t need Internet voting to allow fraud into the voting booth.

Another object was that letting those who could, and wanted to, vote over the Internet would disenfranchise those who didn’t want to or couldn’t. So many more people are online now, and those who aren’t can still vote by mail. Has anyone noticed how much of life has already migrated to smart phones? How universal and ubiquitous mobile computing has become? Why should people who already do almost every task of modern life online or on their smart phones not be able to exercise the franchise the same way?

Oregon has abolished on-site voting, collecting all its ballots by mail. A growing proportion of Californians and others vote by mail as well. Vote-by-mail is as subject to coercion or bribery as Internet voting but no one objects to it on those grounds.

Most telling of all is the unassailable fact that almost every activity is moving into cyberspace at an accelerating pace. Newspapers fail as Google News rises. Book stores fall into ruin as Kindles and Nooks take over that space. Music companies and now movie studios daily lament the vanishing of their business models and cash flow to legal and illegal online media sites. National postal services flounder in debt as business and personal paper mail becomes obsolete.

The world’s intellectual property, business affairs, and interpersonal communication increasingly reside as bits of data on cloud servers that streamline, universalize, and de-materialize the transfer of information between and among individuals and institutions. Why aren’t we allowed to govern ourselves the same way that we entertain and inform ourselves, and conduct almost every other aspect of our individual and collective lives and business? Why not Internet voting and Smart Initiatives now?

To read all or part of the 1,081-page online version of "Etopian Elections: Internet Voting, Smart Initiatives, and the Future of (Electronic) Democracy," go to:

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