Elon University

The 2004 Survey: Prediction on democratic processes

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 Predictions 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, writing an explanation of their position; many did not. Some respondents chose to identify themselves with each 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.

By 2014, network security concerns will be solved and more than half of American votes will be cast online, resulting in increased voter turnout.

Compiled reactions from the 1,286 respondents:
  32% of internet experts agreed
  35% disagreed
  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 Future Project

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 Group

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 of Washington

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, UK

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 Aerospace Corporation

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 of.

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 voter turnout.

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 voter participation.

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 system.

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 on access.

Politicians will argue against anything that will get greater involvement.

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 cost.

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 solved!

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 to entry.

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 public.

The people who benefit from the current electoral system will not allow if to change. ”Ballot security” concerns will trump technological advances.

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 turnout.

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 at once.

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.