Just Do It (Paperless Elections)

Larry Price
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Wednesday - December 03, 2008
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The Honolulu City Council has come up with an insightful initiative: They think it’s time for the voting public to cast their ballots online.

If they succeed with their effort, voters wishing to cast their ballots in the 2009 neighborhood board elections would have to do so using the Internet or telephone. It would be a paperless election, the first in the state.

It would be simple.

The voters would log on to a web site or place their votes by phone.

Understandably, there are those on the Honolulu Neighborhood Commission concerned about security issues and access.

Both are legitimate concerns, but hopefully the measure passes and the idea is embraced.

The advantages of online voting outweigh the negatives.


It would be more convenient, more accessible, more accurate, quicker tabulation, would eliminate paper and is almost tamper-proof.

Voters would have to give their voter ID number and provide the last four digits of their Social Security number.

Additionally, those without access to a computer, iPhone, BlackBerry or other device with Internet access would be allowed to use computer banks at Honolulu Hale or one of nine satellite city halls, and it would cost taxpayers less money.

Granted, the system would need to be refined before it is ready for bigger elections, but there is little evidence to suggest that this method of voting is not in our immediate future.

The city has already selected a vendor to implement the online system. At the same time, the state Office of Elections says it has no plans to use online voting in larger elections. It’s interesting to note that only Kids Voting Hawaii has been voting electronically since the 2003 elections.

It’s understandable that some people who already have a seat on a neighborhood board would be inclined to vote against such an initiative, but hopefully the council will override their objections.

I would like to give four reasons why online voting is not only a good idea, but why it’s going to happen whether they accept it or not.

First, voters can participate in the election from anyplace in the world.

Second, voting could take place using any computer platform.

Third, the voting could take place any time of the day or night.

Fourth, it would be “green” and help launch the often-delayed paperless revolution.

There are many other reasons to seriously consider such a program. When the system is up and running it also could provide support, feedback and guidance via both synchronous (e-mails, forums) and asynchronous communications (chat rooms).

There is little question the council is correct in pursuing this course, because it will give the city a way to provide the voting population with information and resources from around the world to be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection.

Said another way, it fosters a democratic environment where voters can influence governmental issues put before the public. This would make elected officials and their staffs more facilitators of government than mass manipulators.

It may be time for the mayor to create a new agency in city government, something called the Citizen Independency Agency (CIA).

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