Responses in reaction to the following statement
were assembled from a select group of 1,286 Internet stakeholders
in the fall 2004 Pew Internet & American Life "Experts Survey."
The survey allowed respondents to select from the choices "agree,"
"disagree" or "I challenge" the predictive
statement. Some respondents chose to expand on their answer
to this statement by accepting the invitation to write an explanation
of their position; many did not. Some respondents chose to indentify
themselves with their answer; many did not. We share some -
not all - of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents whose
reactions are listed below are attributed here only for the
purpose of indicating a level of internet expertise; the statements
reflect personal viewpoints and do not represent their companies'
or government agencies' policies or positions. Some answers
have been edited in order to share more respondents' replies.
Below is a selection of the many carefully considered responses
to the following statement:
Prediction on democratic processes
By 2014, network security concerns will be solved and more than
half of American votes will be cast online, resulting in increased
Compiled reactions from the 1,286
32% of internet experts agreed
15% challenged the prediction
18% did not respond
There's a good chance that in 10 years we will have learned
to design robust, trustworthy voting systems. But voter apathy
is related not to the voting system but to the perception that
the vote counts. Politicians of both parties have so manipulated
the system that only 29 of 435 voting districts have any sort
of contest this year. It's very easy for many voters to become
apathetic when they perceive that their vote will not affect
the outcome. - Peter Denning, Naval Postgraduate School,
Monterey, Calif./columnist, Communications of the ACM
Network security concerns will never be solved, though the trend
toward increasing use of online voting will continue. The very
cost-effectiveness of this technology encourages governments
to adopt it. - Jorge Reina Schement, Penn State University
I think people will begin to devalue voting if they don't go
do it somewhere. So increased access may lead to decreased participation.
- Douglas Rushkoff, author
The great voter riots of 2008 based on distrust of e-voting
machines will stifle online voting. - David Weinberger,
Evident Marketing Inc.
First, network security concerns can be sufficiently resolved
without intergovernmental cooperation of a kind that is unlikely.
Second, the ritual of casting one's ballot plays an important
role in voter participation. I fear that if we can vote at our
home computers, voter turnout might increase only among the
most committed and best-organized interest groups. Third, many
politically active people, myself included, will oppose online
voting and computer voting of all kinds until we are assured
of a viable and legitimate paper trail. I think it would take
more than ten years to put the political and legal mechanisms
for online voting in place, even if the technological issues
were resolved tomorrow. - Lois Ambash, Metforix Inc.
Voting security is likely unobtainable, regardless of the technology.
There is too much at stake, and there are too many incentives
to corrupt the process. There will need to be a physical representation
of a vote in the future. - Ted Eytan, MD, Group Health Cooperative
Electronic voting will not raise turnout, since the difficulty
of casting a ballot is not a reason for low turnout. Furthermore,
the basic anonymity of a ballot is very difficult to protect
if people may vote from home. I don't see a technical fix for
this problem. - Peter Levine, University of Maryland
And, if so, America will have ceased to be a democracy. The
problem is not merely "network security" or even equipment security,
but that without a secret ballot, monitored by representatives
of the candidates and/or independent observers, there is no
reliable way of preventing coercion (even if there were ways
of preventing impersonation). Voting is a social, not a mechanistic,
activity. - Philip Virgo, secretary general for EURIM -
UK-based Parliament Industry Group/also works with IMIS - UK-based
professional body for management of information systems
Even with the security concerns being solved, it is difficult
to predict a turnout increasing since the current low rate is
not directly related to the electoral tools. There are other
reasons affecting the whole political system that may better
explain this situation. - Jordi Barrat i Esteve, Electronic
Voting Observatory, Universitat Rovira I Virgili
By then there will be a serious security layer added to the
network model because politics and economics will demand it.
To what extent this also facilitates surveillance and censorship
is still unclear. If Americans can vote online, turnout will
be increased - but the extent to which this occur will depend
on voter scandals traced back to digital technology facilitating
voter fraud. - Jonathan Peizer, Open Society Institute
I don't think this will happen quickly. Too many people get
too much joy from suppressing voters at physical polling places.
It would take a political tsunami to make this happen. -
Susan Crawford, policy analyst, Center for Democracy and Technology
and a fellow with the Yale Law School Information Society Project
Votes will be cast online, but if current voting technology
is any indicator, we'll have no assurance of the security of
the technology. If that's the case, concerns about the integrity
of the system may depress its impact on voter turnout. And unless
there is a major public policy initiative that places a networked
computer in every American home (a very unlikely scenario, I
fear) online voting will make voting easier for the social groups
who are already more inclined to vote, and leave behind those
who are already disenfranchised. - Alexandra Samuel, Harvard
University/Cairns Project (New York Law School)
I challenge this prediction. You not only have network security
concerns, you also have personal identity concerns (different
but highly important issue). You solve a lot of identity problems
by making a person come in to a centralized facility to vote.
Getting that process computerized is the next logical step.
Only after that can we consider the next step. I seriously doubt
50 percent of Americans are going to be electronically voting
within the next ten years. I don't know about the increase in
voter turnout either. I question the implicit assumption in
this prediction that making voting electronic will automatically
increase the number of people voting. I suspect one of the primary
reasons for low voter turnout is a perceived lack of personally
relevant choices that the people have. This is very likely due
to the two-party political system in the United States. What
I see happening is that a lot of campaigning is going to be
online. Once that happens, the "two-party" political system
is going to dissolve. That should lead to more choices, and
that should increase voter turnout. In other words, what I see
happening is that the entire political power structure of the
United States is very likely going to change as a result of
the internet. However, that is not going to happen in ten years
either. - Robert Lunn, FocalPoint Analytics/USC Digital
No, there will always be new risks - technology has never been
and will never be foolproof and error-free. Increased voter
turnout is not guaranteed as A) many people continue not to
vote in spite of the increased options available to them - once
again it's a personality and not a technology issue (technology
only gives more freedom if an individual is predisposed to accepting
more freedom); B) technology problems could still lead to inaccuracies
in vote counting! - Bornali Halder, World Development Movement
This prediction could only come true if there was an American
standard for voting. It isn't only network security concerns
that will drive this opportunity. It is a long list of special
interests, local political situations, and lack of voter education.
What happens outside the network security is vastly more complex
and important. For example, when the software vendor sends an
update CD to a local voter administrator, whose to say that
the administrator won't take the CD home and melt it in the
microwave for a planter? Certainly a voter has no idea whether
or not the software that supports the vote transaction is up
to date, built with integrity or backed up to the extent that
a vote cast will be a vote counted. - Elle Tracy, The Results
It is much more likely that mail-in ballots will become the
norm. The voting system is very change resistant and power is
distributed among many nodes. - Ted M. Coopman, University
The reasons for low voter turnout are many and complex and are
not, in the majority of cases, to do with the effort involved
in voting. The Internet may make it easier to vote, but it may
not solve issues of disaffection, alienation from the political
process, feeling that votes don't count, that voting doesn't
give you a voice, being ill-informed about politics, feeling
that there is no real choice within the current constraints
of (in the US) the two-party system. The Internet is a tool
- you need to understand why other democratic tools "aren't
working" in order to understand how this tool might affect voter
behaviour. - Susan Kenyon, University of the West of England,
Beginning with this election (2004), challenges to the accuracy
and safety of electronic voting will become a major concern,
which will take several decades to resolve. - Peter W. Van
Ness, Van Ness Group
While network security concerns may well be solved, I don't
expect to see widespread trust in the fact that they have been
solved. That is, to really "work," an election must be perceived
by the populace as having been fairly conducted and fairly counted.
- Thomas Erickson, IBM Research
BWAH-HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!! ''What? Would you then disenfranchise
the noble dead?'' - A statement by "Congersman Frog," in the
cartoon strip "Pogo," by Walt Kelly. - Mike O'Brien, The
Add open-source software, a public agency that manages the systems,
the requirement to attend a polling station and a verifiable
paper trail, and most electronic voting systems can be made
to work, and probably will be. But voting online from home,
without having to show up in bodily form at a local location,
is a system that cannot be secured. - William Stewart, LivingInternet.com
And the following are from predictors who chose to remain
anonymous: [Workplaces of respondents whose reactions are listed
below include Microsoft, Internet2, RAND, IFC Consulting, Ohio
State University, AOL, The Aspen Institute, Morino Institute,
MIT, Big Horse Incorporated, Connexia, Jupitermedia, University
of Minnesota, Council on Competitiveness, National Center for
Technology and Law, Harvard, Future of Music Coalition, Integrated
Media Association, AT&T, Portland State University, Information
Week, FCC, Big Vision Design, France Telecom, Gartner, Bradley
University, Center for Digital Government, U.S. Department of
State, Consumer Reports WebWatch and others.]
As long as one human being designs it, another will be able
to break or hack it. This is one truism we can never lose sight
It is foolhardy to underestimate the fragility
and vulnerability of any online system to attack and manipulation.
Anything that can be made secure can be hacked.
This will no doubt come, but it has already surprised me how
slow the evolution in this area has been. I don't think we will
get to "more than half" in 10 years. Maybe 20.
Network security is the biggest unsolved issue for the Internet.
There is no indication that security issues will be solved.
The inherent conflict between privacy and security remains unsolved.
No doubt about it. Make it easier, vote from home, send an email
reminder and more people will vote. This will happen faster
than 2014. It will make the campaign process more interesting
and more interactive. We can all be virtual delegates.
I do not believe network security concerns will be solved -
ever. There will always be threats. As old threats are mitigated
- new threats will emerge.
Online voting in Europe has not been shown to result in increased
The democratic political process should not be left to the internet
and I do not believe that elected and appointed officials responsible
for running elections will take the risk in the next decade
... it could make 2000 presidential election look like a cakewalk.
Here's my revision: By 2014, network security concerns will
still be with us, more than half of American votes will be cast
online anyway, and this will have no effect on the rates of
Not all security concerns will be solved. I believe that there
are non-technical objections to online voting that are fundamental,
for example the facilitation of vote-buying. Other sorts of
voting (such as share-holder meetings) will be totally on line.
So far, rate in changes in voter technologies has been slow,
public distrust is high, even in the face of major scandals
after the 2000 elections. I am not sure whether moving voting
online is a good thing in any case given the inequalities of
internet access. It could result in the disenfranchisement of
a significant segment of the population if the digital divide
does not get resolved.
Although voting may move online increasingly, security issues
will not have been solved (current ones maybe, but new ones
will keep arising) leaving us with a very vulnerable and corruptable
Security concerns will be ignored. Votes will be cast on-line,
but public-choice theory suggests there is no reason that this
should increase voter "turnout."
Whether or not the security concerns are solved, voting will
move online. Pressure from citizens as well as key legislators
will make that happen. It could do one of two things: help conquer
the digital divide or make it grow ever wider. It will all depend
Politicians will argue against anything that will get greater
Network security concerns over online voting will grow dramatically
in the next decade, not decrease. I do believe that we will
see significant deployment of online voting within a decade.
However, this will not increase turnout, which is most heavily
influenced by the ease of registration and availability of absentee
ballots. In Washington State, the majority of ballots are already
cast by absentee ballot.
The prediction implicitly assumes that online voting is held
up by network security concerns. While I believe that network
security will vastly improve in the coming years, I don't believe
that voting security will improve. On-line voting is open to
very much the same fraud patterns as absentee ballots, with
one aggravating circumstance: it can be automatized. Network
security will not make absentee ballots safer.
Considering the travesty of the last election and continued
reports about campaigns of disenfranchisement for this upcoming
one I think we will have to go a long way before people give
unquestioning trust to an all digital system. Furthermore, both
Democrats and Republicans actively benefit from low voter turnout
in that they have smaller target groups to convince each election
year. The fact that we are only watching presidential commercials
in a handful of swing-states this election surely says something
about the parties desire to have the entire electorate vote.
That said, the convenience of the web speeds progress and diminishes
If we want to, this is a solvable problem and by 2014, we could
do it. I don't know if we have the will or the resources, though.
Trust mechanisms are just starting to be explored. The infrastructure
necessary to support this kind of wide-spread authentication
and authorization policy and operation will only just be making
real progress at this level.
Security concerns of "Internet voting'' cannot be solved. Those
who claim otherwise lack very basic understanding of the problems
associated with voting.
Network security will always be an issue, as there are always
"smart" people out there trying to sabotage the network. Votes?
The same people who won't vote, won't, AND the 30% of the population
without "on-line" capabilities will not be able to vote unless
there are polling stations.
I'd say that substantial # of votes will be cast online, although
not 50%. Security problems may be contained but certainly not
I don't see information assurance as having a "solution." It
is an evolving struggle between attackers and defenders. I don't
see anything changing that in 10 years.
Solving the problems of online voting will prove very difficult
and there will resistance at almost every level to the implementation
of these systems.
I am contaminated by the current norms of two-party political
behavior. I see nothing but continued estrangement from national/conventional
politics. But, at the same time, I believe virtual communities
of interest will exercise episodic political power ... like
a swarm of angry bees!
There's always a better mousetrap that can be compromised by
determined individuals bent on disrupting the Internet. Not
everyone is computer literate and will vote correctly. There
will be some sort of hanging chad in cyberspace.
If more Americans vote, it will be because one of the major
parties manages to distribute an application that does your
voting for you, as directed by the party; disengagement with
the world is not solved by tech toys. Issues are complicated,
and voter pamphlets require time to digest. That's the barrier
We have some hard thinking here about how to have elections
that are not rippled with fraud. We will have to consider whether
the anonymous vote continues to be viable. But if it is not,
what then - how can we have accountable elections but anonymous
votes? Something may have to give.
Voting will never be done via Internet for a large portion of
The people who benefit from the current electoral system will
not allow if to change. ''Ballot security'' concerns will trump
There will always be hackers and workarounds. IF network security
concerns are ever solved in such a way as to allow absolutely
no possibility of voter fraud, I doubt it would happen within
the next 10 years.
Even if it could be done, I don't think a majority of the population
would trust it.
1) Network security concerns will never be solved. The hackers
will always be one step ahead of the good guys. This is not
an Internet issue, it's a human/organizational nature issue.
2) There are so many more obstacles to online voting than network
security, that they cannot be resolved by 2014. 3) Every report
of a failure, however small and however quickly fixed, will
result in decreased trust in the system; hardly conducive to
greater turnout. There are many other actions that would increase
turnout more predictably and with fewer drawbacks than Internet
voting - a uniform 24-hour voting period, for example. On the
other hand, we have good evidence via research and e-commerce
that if people really want what the Internet offers, they will
hold their noses and plunge ahead. If Internet voting can be
made good enough, it could have a positive effect on voter turnout,
but not a dramatic one.
This is a no-end battle. A good security engineer is sure to
have work all his life. The question being not how to make a
secure system but: How long will it live before being hacked?
This has no impact on voting.
Network security concerns won't be ''solved'' ...ever. Folks
might vote online but this will not necessarily increase voter
There will still be too much social suspicion of technologies
(and more importantly, our political process) to see e-voting
by 2014 ... perhaps further down the road, but not by 2014.
I agree with the first part, but not the second. Sooner than
2014 it will be safe to cast votes online. However, it will
not increase voter turnout, because there will be a single party
after the election of George W. Bush to a second term. Redistricting
will continue at a fervent pace beneficial to Republicans, the
Democratic Party will collapse, and America will ''evolve''
to a one-party plutocracy/Christian theocracy that represents
the values of approximately 25 percent of the American public.
By 2020 America will begin to resemble early 1990's South Africa.
Wealth and power will be concentrated among corporations and
a small number of individuals (even more so than it is today)
and the majority of the American people will be disenfranchised.
We're going to an online vote for fast results, verifiable by
a paper ballot, where elections are close. I don't think security
is ever going to be that good. Some people don't trust government.
Why do you think there are guns?
I would point to IPv6 as the solution and key enabler.
Not only must network security be solved, which I do not believe
you will ever have complete network security, you must also
solve the issue of online authentication.
[I agree with] all but the network security, which [is a problem
that] will always be with us. We live in a world of 10 levels
of device iteration. Not all can own the latest technology all
There is very little proof that ease of access beyond a certain
point actually increases voter involvement. Removing actual
barriers to voting certainly has that effect. But in the U.S.,
where all you have to do is remember where and when to vote
and then show up, there will not be a dramatic increase in voting.
Let's hope so. But networks may be the least of the security
concerns. Take that leaked Diebold letter that promised to deliver
Ohio to the GOP. This would be a great leap forward, so long
as there isn't a finger on the button.