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Why is there not more online voting in the US election

We live online. We work online, we bank online, we book flights online, we shop online, some us find partners online, and most of all, we network online. So why is online voting relatively rare in the age of the tablet, the smartphone and the convenient click?

As we head into the final day of the US election with the race too close to call, every online tool from Twitter to Tumblr is being deployed including ludicrous gimmicks like the Obama campaign’s ‘see how many people with your first name have voted’ app. But if the entire election machine can play out online, and meager voter turnouts so often attributed to the difficulty of getting to a polling station are still low, why aren’t we all casting our ballot in cyberspace?

The simple answer seems to be the fear of hacking. A few small local races, like the all digital city administrator election in Honolulu, Hawaii have successfully experimented with online voting and significantly, both Google and Facebook have started to allow voters to register through their sites. But the fear of an infiltrated system continues to pervade electoral regulators. As well it might after the voting machines debacle that continues to worry Democrats to this day. Even now accusations are flying that Mitt Romney’s son owns the company that makes the Ohio voting machines, and while they are unsubstantiated, the companies are in fact owned by major Republican donors.

With the sheer, mind bending quantities of cash, influence and geo political machination involved in any US election, what might an online voting system actually look like? Would we be talking about cyber warfare on an unprecedented domestic scale? Would donor money and the shadowy PAC’s be funneling resources into an army of off grid cyber warriors fighting to replicate identities and hack accounts across the country?

Smaller countries with established national identification systems like Estonia are already operating online voting systems. But with so much more to play for and with such strong forces in play, how risky is it to implement in a country like the United States where partisan bile, technological supremacy and vast resources all operate in equal measure? Though more and more, small scale pilot programs are being rolled out locally, it may yet be some time before people can vote for President though their smartphone.

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