Should US citizens be able to vote online?

Last updated: 13 December 2019

With Election Day less than a week away, many of us in the US are still researching and deciding on our choices for our local and national elections. Others, though, are deciding whether they will even vote at all. Did you know that only 50 to 60 percent of our population makes it to the polls? What if we made it easier to vote, do you think that would increase voter turnout?

Some people think so. They think that it’s time to bring voting online, and get citizens involved via their mobile device or PC. Other countries that have tried it have indeed seen turnout go up: in Canada, for example, one study showed that early voting increased 300 percent the first year that internet voting was allowed.

One great example of successful online voting is in Estonia, where all of its citizens have been able to vote online since 2007. According to Priit Vinkel, an adviser to Estonia’s National Electoral Committee, security is understandably the biggest concern. He told CNN recently, “Internet voting relies basically on a single factor: trust. Building and stabilizing this trust is the most important but also the most difficult task of the state.”

For this essential element of trust, Estonia relies on secure national ID cards, which can both verify voters and detect unusual activities.

However, while it sounds appealing to be able to conveniently and easily vote online, there is a fundamental problem with the idea of online voting in the United States: we don’t have the same level of trust as a country with strong, secure national IDs like Estonia. In order to be able to successfully bring voting and other government services online we will need a nationwide form of secure and verifiable identification in the United States. Last March, I talked about ways we could accomplish this: using a trusted digital identity credential based on smart card technology, or possibly upgrading our social security card.

Building a solid, secure identity infrastructure should become a priority and it is already possible with today’s technology. The very nature of a democracy is that everyone has a voice and can cast their vote in how their country moves forward. As technology connects more people than ever before, we can help this become a reality and get more people voting than ever before. Next Tuesday, half of the country will decide which candidate will be voted into the White House. With the right steps, we can work towards making sure that next time, the other half join us in being heard.

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