Should voting in US elections be done electronically?


Fact Box

  • A 2015 Survey of American Fears revealed that Americans fear technology more than death itself [1]. 
  • An NPR poll revealed that 52% of Americans anticipate there being some type of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election [2].  
  • Experts from Harvard, Stanford, and the Brennan Center for Justice all recommend eliminating paperless voting [3].
  • Parts of West Virginia, Utah, Oregon, and Colorado have begun implementing voting apps for the convenience of overseas residents and the military to cast their votes on their phones [4]. 

Adam (Yes)

The sanctity of elections is one of the reasons why American democracy has endured for nearly two hundred and fifty years. Democracy needs to evolve with technology, and with the needs of the American electorate, voting in US elections should be done electronically.

It is possible to develop applications that manage confidential data. Retail banking and consumer retail have developed tools for transacting business that have gained wide acceptance [1] [2] . These industries have also identified best practices for ensuring safety, confidentiality, and data integrity [3]. Similar best practices apply to building secure voting applications.

Electronic voting would raise participation in US elections. Turnout was only 56% in the 2016 presidential elections [4], is typically less for off-year elections [5], and is lower still for younger voters [6]. For many prospective voters, the inability to take off work or access a polling place means that they simply do not participate [7]. Electronic voting would eliminate the need to schedule time for and find transportation to a polling place on Election Day.

Finally, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing to control the disease, finding virtual ways of accessing public services is essential for preserving public health. With the government establishing various lockdowns, visiting polling places may not be possible. Now is the time to develop new ways of voting, as experts predict an estimated $1 billion price tag to make voting by mail an option nationwide [8]

Our nation’s institutions endure through reliance on available technology. Voting is no exception.  

Giovanni (No)

Voting in US elections should not be done electronically, and certainly not without a paper ballot hard copy [1]. Electronic voting has developed a troubled reputation during the last few decades, as information security flaws and technological shortcomings have made themselves known [2] [3].

Information security is paramount to the legitimacy of a democracy, and there have been several instances where hackers have demonstrated the weaknesses of existing systems [4] [5]. Due to a “hire the lowest bidder” mentality and the litigious suppliers protecting lucrative contracts [6], it’s unlikely a high-caliber, secure e-voting system will ever be put into place without radical changes to how American elections are conducted.

Existing e-voting machines are quickly made dated, aren’t always in good condition, and can feature confusing user interfaces [7]. While all these issues could theoretically be resolved, fixing the issue across the board is highly unlikely in a country where the Constitution defers to individual states as to how elections are to be conducted. Any hopes for secure online (remote) voting are even more far-fetched, and every nation that's tried it, save Estonia, has subsequently backed away from it [8].

Meanwhile, vote-by-mail has proven an effective way to make it easier for people to vote, while retaining a paper trail, and cannot be hacked/manipulated. Rather than hoping for people to be able to vote electronically, Americans concerned about voting access should consider advocating for nationwide adoption of vote-by-mail.


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