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Who Votes by Mail? A Dynamic Model of the Individual-Level Consequences of Vote-By-Mail Systems

Author(s): 
Nancy Burns
Adam Berinsky
Michael Traugott
Journal: 
Public Opinion Quarterly
pp: 
178-197
Link to Article: 
Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Election administrators and public officials often consider changes in electoral laws, hoping that these changes will increase voter turnout and make the electorate more reflective of the voting-age population. The most recent of these innovations is voting-by-mail (VBM), a procedure by which ballots are sent to an address for every registered voter. Over the last 2 decades, VBM has spread across the United States, unaccompanied by much empirical evaluation of its impact on either voter turnout or the stratification of the electorate.

Point, Click, and Vote

Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
Thad E. Hall
R. Michael Alvarez
point_click_vote.jpg

Whether responding to a CNN.com survey or voting for the NFL All-Pro team, computer users are becoming more and more comfortable with Internet polls. Computer use in the United States continues to grow—more than half of all American households now have a personal computer. The next question, then, becomes obvious. Should Americans be able to use the Internet in the most important polls of all?

Some advocates of Internet voting argue that Americans are well suited to casting their ballots online in political elections. They are eager to make use of new technology, and they have relatively broad access to the Internet. Voting would become easier for people stuck at home, at the office, or on the road. Internet voting might encourage greater political participation among young adults, a group that stays away from the polling place in droves. It would hold special appeal for military personnel overseas, whose ability to vote is a growing concern. There are serious concerns, however, regarding computer security and voter fraud, unequal Internet access across socioeconomic lines (the "digital divide"), and the civic consequences of moving elections away from schools and other polling places and into private homes and offices. After all, showing up to vote is the most public civic activity many Americans engage in, and it is often their only overt participation in the democratic process.

In Point, Click, and Vote, voting experts Michael Alvarez and Thad Hall make a strong case for greater experimentation with Internet voting. In their words, "There is no way to know whether any argument regarding Internet voting is accurate unless real Internet voting systems are tested, and they should be tested in small-scale, scientific trials so that their successes and failures can be evaluated." In other words, you never know until you try, and it's time to try harder.

The authors offer a realistic plan for putting pilot remote Internet voting programs into effect nationwide. Such programs would allow U.S. voters in selected areas to cast their ballots over any Internet connection; they would not even need to leave home. If these pilot programs are successful, the next step is to consider how they might be implemented on a larger scale in future elections.

Electronic Elections

Date Published: 
11/30/2008
Author(s): 
Thad E. Hall
R. Michael Alvarez
electronic_elections.jpg

Since the 2000 presidential election, the United States has been embroiled in debates about electronic voting. Critics say the new technologies invite tampering and fraud. Advocates say they enhance the accuracy of vote counts and make casting ballots easier--and ultimately foster greater political participation. Electronic Elections cuts through the media spin to assess the advantages and risks associated with different ways of casting ballots--and shows how e-voting can be the future of American democracy.

Elections by nature are fraught with risk. Michael Alvarez and Thad Hall fully examine the range of past methods and the new technologies that have been created to try to minimize risk and accurately reflect the will of voters. Drawing upon a wealth of new data on how different kinds of electronic voting machines have performed in recent elections nationwide, they evaluate the security issues that have been the subject of so much media attention, and examine the impacts the new computer-based solutions is having on voter participation. Alvarez and Hall explain why the benefits of e-voting can outweigh the challenges, and they argue that media coverage of the new technologies has emphasized their problems while virtually ignoring their enormous potential for empowering more citizens to vote. The authors also offer ways to improve voting technologies and to develop more effective means of implementing and evaluating these systems.

Electronic Elections makes a case for how e-voting can work in the United States, showing why making it work right is essential to the future vibrancy of the democratic process.

Election Fraud: Detecting and Deterring Electoral Manipulation

Date Published: 
05/05/2008
Author(s): 
Thad E. Hall
R. Michael Alvarez
Susan Hyde
election_fraud.jpg

The potential for fraud overshadows elections around the world, even in long-established democracies. Significant allegations of fraud marred recent elections in Italy, Mexico, and several former Soviet republics. In the United States, charges of manipulation in the 2000 presidential contest heightened concern about the vulnerability of all aspects of the election process, ranging from voter registration to the security of high-tech voting machines.

Fair and competitive elections are the bedrock of democratic government. They are essential mechanisms for providing public accountability, transparency, and representation. They give ordinary citizens the opportunity to choose those who govern and to express their views on the critical issues facing their community or nation. Fraud derails this process by preventing voters' voices from being heard. Yet despite its importance, too little is known about election fraud and manipulation.

Election Fraud presents research on defining, measuring, and detecting election fraud and electoral manipulation by leading scholars of election law, election administration, and U.S. and comparative politics. The first part of the book examines the U.S. understanding of election fraud in comparative perspective. The second part empirically investigates the extent and nature of election fraud in the United States. The concluding section analyzes techniques for detecting and potentially deterring fraud. These strategies include both statistical analysis and on-the-ground election monitoring.

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