Takoma Park voters will have the option of casting their ballots over the Internet for the November 2011 election, and a test of the system is going to be conducted June 9 at the Takoma Park Community Center.
Poorvi Vora, an associate professor at George Washington University made a presentation of the online voting system to Takoma Park’s Board of Elections (BOE) at the board’s meeting May 18.
The opportunity for voters to cast their ballots over the Internet begins with absentee ballots that will be mailed to voters, Vora said. The absentee ballots will arrive at voters’ homes in a 9.5 x 6.5 envelope. Once opened, voters will immediately see that the 9.5 x 6.5 envelope contains two envelopes, Vora said.
The package will contain instructions telling the voters that this year they have to option to vote using the Internet, and it will have the online address, Vora said. In addition, the envelope containing the ballot will also have silver scratch off material under which will be numbers and passwords the voter would use in order to vote over the Internet.
That envelope with say “For Internet Voting” or something like that, Vora said. The reason the numbers and passwords are placed under silver scratch off material “is if the envelope arrives at the Board of Elections and it is not scratched off, that person did not try to vote over the Internet,” she said. If the silver scratch off material is missing, “that person could have voted over the Internet, and tried to cast a second ballot.” So as long as the silver sections are not scratched off, that ballot can be treated as a regular absentee ballot, she said.
Any ballots that arrive with the silver scratched off can be held to the side for review, at which point the BOE can decide to let a paper ballot overrule all electronic votes cast, Vora said. That way, if a voter submits a paper ballot, but there has been a ballot cast over the Internet, the online vote can be declared null by the BOE, and the paper ballot can take the place of that voter’s ballot.
The second envelope will arrive sealed because it contains the paper ballot. When the voters open the sealed envelope, they will find a third envelope containing the paper ballot, Vora said. Voters who do not want to vote over the Internet would ignore what is written on the third envelope. They would remove the ballot from that envelope, fill out the ballot, place the ballot back into the envelope it was removed from, seal that envelope and then place it in the window envelope that is provided for its return and mail it, she said. “We try to make this as non-invasive as possible for the voter who wants to vote by snail mail,” she added.