Democracy goes online

After the success of online shopping, it was inevitable. The Arizona Democratic Party will hold the first legally binding Internet vote for public office in March. A New York software company is using the electronic election as the first real-life demonstration of its software, which it says will show that online voting is a reliable method of choosing presidential candidates.

To vote for Al Gore or Bill Bradley online, each registered Democratic voter will be assigned a personalized digital certificate, through a partnership with VeriSign, that uniquely identifies the voter. On March 11, about 50,000 primary voters are expected to participate. Paper ballots will still be available at polling locations.

Internet voting is putting “the tools of technology in the hands of democracy,” said Joe Mohen, CEO of, which has already co-ordinated elections for unions and associations.

Democratic party officials say that the electronic vote will greatly increase voter turnout (maybe it’s now voter “turn-on”) a huge problem in the U.S. where many people have simply abandoned participation in the democratic process. says it will attempt to thwart hackers, otect voters’ privacy, and make sure people are casting their own ballots.

Arizona Democrats announced the selection of the firm and a contract (signed electronically, of course) late last year. The Arizona voting experiment is being watched by California and Washington, among other states. The U.S. Army is also planning to test “Net voting” for its foreign-based citizens.