N.J. difficulties not indictment of online voting, advocates say
With regular polling places closed down and many voters displaced, New Jersey allowed residents to vote by email.
Tue, Nov 06, 2012 at 05:31 PM
The Garden State allowed residents to vote by email, but the details were complicated and poorly explained, critics say. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Hurricane Sandy was the diabolical definition of a perfect storm not only in how it hit the tri-state area with maximum punch but in its timing before a critical national election. With regular polling places closed down and many potential voters displaced from home and short on gasoline, the Garden State took the extraordinary step of allowing residents to vote by email or so it seemed. The details were more complicated, and poorly explained, say critics.
While many New Jerseyans can now receive an application and send in a ballot by email (or fax), they still have to send a paper ballot by traditional mail. This two-step process has been one source of confusion.
The directive from the state went into great detail about the online procedure but mentioned the part about mailed-in ballots in a separate section.
That problem was dwarfed, however, by the inability of state election officials to keep up with the onslaught of emails on Nov. 6. The volume prompted Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno to extend the deadline for email voting beyond Election Day to Friday.
These glitches are not, in themselves, an indictment of online voting, said Nick Judd, managing editor of the website for Personal Technology Media, a technology-and-politics advocacy organization. “I don't think what happened in New Jersey really offers a teachable moment,” Judd told TechNewsDaily via email. “For example, if the order the lieutenant governor released had just been more clearly worded, I doubt this kerfuffle would have blown up as large as it has."
Still, email voting is just an interim step to deal with a disaster (it’s normally used for citizens who are out of the country). Andrew Rasiej, the founder of Personal Democracy Media, sees a bright side. “Hopefully this disaster will catalyze a renewed conversation about how to expand voting in the digital age,” he told TechNewsDaily.
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