Why an Online Election Can Work Pt. 2

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The greatest benefit of an online election is convenience. The mechanism would make it easier to participate in elections and ensure that those in power represented a larger portion of the public. We will discuss how online elections would spark participation later in the series. Today we are focused on voter participation during presidential elections.

The last two presidential elections provide a measuring stick that we can use to evaluate voter turnout and voter fraud. Presidential election years historically have higher voter turnout than mid-term elections and should be compared to one another.[1] Mid-term elections fluctuate in participation corresponding to ideological shifts in the American public.[2]

In 2008, 62.2% of eligible voters showed up at the polls. Five states had voter turnout percentages over 70%. In 2004, 60% of eligible voters turned out at the polls.[3] But, six states had voter turnout rates exceeding 70%.[4] Minnesota was the national leader with 78% turnout in the general election.

Compared to the 2008 campaign, the 2004 turnout numbers looked more traditional. As did the ways the campaigns were conducted. Neither candidate built a reputation for effectively using the Internet as a mechanism for contacting voters, collecting donations, or delivering their positions on issues relevant to voters.

Comparing the 2008 and 2004 Numbers

There are some evident differences in the results between the two most recent presidential elections. The first is the 2% rise in voter turnout. Going one election further into the past, a 2% rise is relatively insignificant. During the 2000 presidential election only 55.4% of the eligible population participated in the election. [5] Voter turnout being only half of the previous increase, between 2000 and 2004, still put the United States close to 2/3 national turnout.


[1] Presidential Election Year Voter Turnout, George Mason University, http://elections.gmu.edu/voter_turnout.htm; Voter Turnout in Federal Elections 1960-2010, http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0781453.html.

[2] William Galston, It’s the Ideology, Stupid, The New Republic, Nov. 4, 2010, http://www.tnr.com/blog/william-galston/78918/its-the-ideology-stupid-midterm-elections.

[3]http://elections.gmu.edu/Turnout_2004G.html

[4] http://elections.gmu.edu/Turnout_2004G.html

[5] http://elections.gmu.edu/Turnout_2000G.html

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3 comments
William Boardman
William Boardman

And what happens to people without online access?

Of course there are some who don't want those people voting anyway.

And who controls the system, who owns the software, etc.?

Right now we have an unacceptable system where a large proportion of votes are counted

by proprietary machines owned by people with no accountability.

William Boardman
William Boardman

And what happens to people without online access?

Of course there are some who don't want those people voting anyway.

And who controls the system, who owns the software, etc.?

Right now we have an unacceptable system where a large proportion of votes are counted

by proprietary machines owned by people with no accountability?

Matt Metzner
Matt Metzner

I'll get into the nuts and bolts of what I propose is a sound election design later in the series. Essentially you get those without online access to computers and have other methods available as well, including land lines, mobile devices, and polling places we are familiar with. Multiple steps for accountability including third-party and government officials.