Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Debate Over How NYC Should Vote Ignores The Internet

Following the 2000 Presidential election, government officials were desperate to get rid of hanging chads and butterfly ballots as quick as they could. Moving as quick as they could, Congress came up with HAVA and more problems were created than solved. Touchscreen ballots and the corporations that build them have called the validity of elections into question. Now in 2009 there is a lot of hesitation to switch from the old lever machines to touchscreens. Yet one way to move into the 21st century has alluded those with a love affair with the old clunkers.

Why not try the Internet? Off the bat it sounds even worse than the touchscreens but this could be the answer to our voter-integrity prayers. Even the Board of Education here in New York City thinks so:

New York City is about to embark on an historic and pioneering expedition in the Internet age. The first ever Internet election held completely online, is about to take place in our great city. Held by the Board of Education, it is the election that will determine who will have a voice in the future of our children’s education here in New York.

In this groundbreaking effort, New York City public school parents will vote online to elect over 300 of their peers to serve in parental advisory boards throughout NYC school districts, representing the needs of their children and communities. The Community and Citywide Education Council (CEC) elections will be held in April and the candidate application deadline is March 14. Unless significant steps are taken by community activists like yourself to spread the word and recruit candidates, a number of schools and neighborhoods across New York may go unrepresented.

The history of Internet voting is short. In March of 2000 the Arizona Democratic Party held the first binding primary election that allowed voters the choice of casting a legal vote over the Internet. It was used again in 2004 when the Federal voting assistance program (through the SERVE initiative) allowed Uniformed Services Members and US citizens living overseas to vote online from anywhere in the world.
If the Internet can bring Power to the Parents, why can't it be so for the rest of the city and the entirety of New York. If the method works, we'd be a model for the rest of the country just as we once were when the lever machine was state-of-the-art. The Board of Elections should closely monitor the Internet voting set to take place next month and seriously consider it for their own use as soon as possible. As ChangeNYC notes, this could be a huge moment for grassroots democracy if it goes through.