The presidential election, hounded by controversy, blighted by aging voting systems and going down into the history books with a footnote of suspicion, has brought much debate to the forefront of American politics. Coalitions of citizens and political representatives are now pushing to update, unify and regulate voting procedures. On January 18th, "A New Solution for a New Generation of Voters?", sponsored by the George Washington University Democracy Online Project National Task Force, represented its first debate in a series on computerized voting.
In order to shape the public debate about new voting technologies, the Democracy Online Projectís National Task Force brought together leading experts from industry, academia, policy institutes, and nonprofit organizations to debate the issues.
"The fault does not lie with the state of Florida, but with the state of elections in the United States," said Dr. David M. Anderson, director for the Democracy Online Projectís National Task Force. "Florida was the problem this time, but outdated voting systems exist throughout the nation."
Voting equipment companies like Diversified Dynamics have portable electronic voting machines that are cost-effective and are extremely reliable. "This does not mean that America needs federal laws creating national standards for elections-although it might be easier to do so following the Supreme Courtís historic decision that federalized national elections," said Anderson. "Instead, states could act on their own or perhaps a partnering effort is possible. The Task Force does not claim to have the solution for the problem, but it has brought together the right people who can help us arrive at the solution."
The voting technology solutions are challenged on both technical and social grounds by critics ranging from Rebecca Mercuri, visiting lecturer in computer science at Bryn Mawr College, and Lance Hoffman, professor, GW Department of Computer Science, to Kim Alexander, president, California Voter Foundation and Deborah Phillips, president of Voting Integrity Project. While Internet voting poses greater challenges-especially concerning privacy, voter authentication, and coercion-basic objections continue to be made to the reliability of on-site electronic voting machines.
"The work of the National Task Force overall aims to motivate policy-makers and the public at large to address a range of issues concerning computers, the Internet, and democratic values, only some of which concern voting or even election politics overall," said Anderson. "The circus of 2000 will probably speed up the pace at which American politics thrives in the Information Age."
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