Apart from the various considerations of political ideology, influence and process regarding Americans Elect, there’s the simple matter of technology. Americans Elect plans to use all-internet-voting to nominate a presidential candidate and to broker the selection of the actual president in an Electoral College showdown. Will a binding internet vote be pulled off with accuracy and without getting hacked? Or is online voting subject to tampering?
Internet votes can be pulled off. The city of Honolulu managed an internet election for neighborhood councils in 2009. Estonia is often mentioned by internet-voting advocates, although more than 98% of votes cast in Estonia’s 2005 e-vote were old-fashioned paper ballots, and Estonia is a small country that had 9,681 electronic votes to verify that year.
The scale is much larger and the stakes are much higher in an internet election for the President of the United States, the single most powerful position on the planet. And we’re not just talking about a vote to select an Americans Elect nominee, either. In its bylaws, Americans Elect makes plans to hold a second internet vote if the Americans Elect candidate doesn’t win an outright majority of electoral votes, but neither does the Republican or Democratic party candidate. This second vote would decide which major party candidate would receive the electoral votes of Americans Elect. That vote would decide the presidency. All Americans Elect needs to put itself in that position is Election Day victory in one of the fifty states.
So when we evaluate Americans Elect, we should pay close attention to the current state of internet voting. And as Jim Soper points out, recent excursions into internet voting are sobering. The city of Washington, DC planned to start offering an internet vote system for residents of DC living overseas; last fall it launched the enterprise with an invitation for experts to try and hack its security system. Within three days, J. Alex Halderman and a small team from the University of Michigan had won complete control of the DC internet voting system.