Internet Voting and Cover Oregon

An Oregon legislative committee has advanced a bill to study Internet voting in Oregon. There are risks, but online voting would be convenient and potentially increase voter participation.Oregon lawmakers are taking the first tiny steps to explore Internet voting in the shadow of the Cover Oregon website debacle. The two issues really don't deserve to be linked.

Voting via the Internet has gone on for business for years. Shareholders routinely cast ballots online for acquisitions, financial changes and corporate board members. Voting fraud is rarely an issue.

It is common for many Americans to purchase goods and conduct personal banking online, both of which require security measures.

People vote, buy and bank online because it is convenient.

No question that databases can be hacked, as apparently happened recently in the Oregon Secretary of State's office. That's a fair concern. Pointing to Cover Oregon's balky beginning online, not so much.

Cover Oregon's struggle to get its web presence in order really has nothing to do with setting up an online voting system for registered voters. Yes, both may be complex, but not really comparable. Cover Oregon is an application portal that is supposed to walk people through various steps to evaluate various health insurance options and determine their eligibility for subsidies. A voting system allows people to cast their "ballot" online, with the only variability being the candidates and measures that are on their local "ballot."

Ensuring voters have the correct ballot would require careful software programming. But it is a problem that pops up from time to time under the current system. So does voter fraud, such as the Clackamas County election worker who was discovered "filling in" ballots that weren't completed by voters.

When Oregon turned to vote-by-mail in the 1990s, people voiced a lot of concern, especially about the potential for fraud and coercion over the kitchen table. There have been a few incidents, but by and large Oregon's vote-by-mail experiment succeeded. Other states haven't exactly followed suit, but many now allow voters more latitude in ordering absentee or advance ballots, which boils down to the same thing.

There are intrinsic and unique dangers to Internet voting, and the Oregon Senate panel that passed out a study bill acted wisely. The exploration of this 21st century voting system shouldn't be short-circuited by near-sighted fears that cloud advantages, such as convenience, that could boost voter participation, especially by younger voters who do most everything, including dating, online.

If we can have a national discussion on the invasion of our personal privacy by the federal government collecting our phone calls and emails, then we certainly can discuss voting online.