Florida Considers Internet Voting

Rumors circulate of a possible Florida do-over primary that would include online voting.  

Rumors are floating around Florida that the state could resort to Internet voting as part of a makeover primary election. Under the plan, Florida Democrats could cast votes by mail, the telephone or over the Internet.

Florida held a primary Jan. 19 but the DNC (Democratic National Committee) refuses to recognize the results because the state went against the DNC's wishes in scheduling the vote before Feb. 5. Michigan Democrats face a similar situation.

But with the race for the Democratic presidential nomination between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton so close, both Florida and Michigan want their state's votes to count. Money is also a factor with a full-fledged primary election estimated to cost $6 million. Internet voting proponents say the cost could be cut in half with an online vote.

"It is important to remember that the Democratic nominating process does not end until June 10. The Florida Democratic Party continues to work with our leadership, Sen. Clinton, Sen. Obama and the Democratic National Committee to ensure this state is fully represented at the national convention," Florida Democratic Party Chairperson Karen L. Thurman said in a statement.

The proposal to expedite a presidential primary do-over by allowing voters to cast their votes over the Internet raises concerns over privacy and security of the election.

"Could it be a component? Possibly,'' Mark Bubriski, a spokesperson for the state party, told The Miami Herald over the weekend. "But there's no way we could do an only-online vote. This community and state are too diverse to do something like that."

As proposed, registered Florida Democrats would be mailed a numbered ballot, along with a personal identification number and the Web address of a secure site. At the site, voters would enter their ballot and PIN numbers and some other type of widely recognized form of identification such as a Social Security number.

Voters would be given an electronically encrypted receipt. Those voters without access to a computer could vote by mail or the telephone using the ballot and PIN numbers.

The plan is similar to that used in the Feb. 5-12 primary for Americans living overseas. Online ballots were cast from 164 countries and territories, from Antarctica to Zambia. Democrats Abroad, the official overseas branch of the DNC, coordinated the vote.

While Obama won the overseas election, Democrats Abroad had to restate the numbers on Feb. 21 due to a programming error in a spreadsheet column intended to calculate the sum of votes in Barcelona, Spain.

"It is important that we are clear about one issue," Thurman said. "At this time, no suggested alternative process has been able to meet three specific and important requirements: the full participation from both candidates; a guaranteed commitment of the millions of dollars it will cost to conduct the event; and a detailed election plan that would enfranchise all Florida Democrats."