The MOVE Act is providing funding to select states to try out online voting. If all goes well, online voting might be available to everyone in the future.

In October 2009, President Obama signed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which was written to ensure that military personnel overseas and American expatriates received the means to vote in U.S. elections. For years, overseas citizens have been getting absentee ballots to participate in the elections. Due to the MOVE Act, select states are receiving funding to better facilitate voting for those who can’t make it home. In December, the company Democracy Live created a web portal so those abroad could vote online.

Florida’s 2012 Presidental Primary opened expatriate voting online in December. Since then, more than 1,200 voters in 40 countries have used LiveBallot to cast their votes. Democracy Live uses the Microsoft Windows Azure platform to make it all happen. Many are hoping that if this round of online voting goes well, that it will opened to a more general user base in the future.

Democracy Live uses the Azure platform because the company has a partnership with Microsoft. Microsoft ensures that ballots for anyone and everyone are available for access 24/7 and that the data transfer is always secure. Democracy Live is also helping disabled Washington state voters to vote, in conjunction with the Help America Vote Act. Although the company is only now getting noticed, LiveBallot has helped disabled voters in over 50 elections.

Virginia voters also currently have a chance to test out the same voting portal online. Voting for the March 6th Virginia Republican Primary Election opened on January 20th. Later this year, select counties in California will also try out Democracy Live’s latest venture. LiveBallot also offers voters the option to print out their ballots, and mail or fax them in. So even if people aren’t taking advantage of all aspects of the quickened process, they’re at least getting their ballots a little faster than absentee ballots that arrive in the mail.

It may not be as big of a problem for ballots mailed in the U.S., but one recurring problem for overseas voters are ballots that don’t reach their local government offices in time and their votes are not counted. Another problem Democracy Live hopes to remedy is that of expatriates not getting their absentee ballots in time to vote for local elections and instead, get relegated to vote only in federal elections. The final problem that some overseas voters encounter is that by the time they receive their ballots in the mail, they may not have enough time to research the candidates or proposals that they’re voting on before they have to send the ballots out again in time to be counted. With the LiveBallot, being involved in local government for those abroad will be as simple as logging onto their email.

For years officials have waved off the notion of online voting, claiming that it is too insecure to ever be used in a wide scale implementation. One journalist points out that in every election now there are dishonest votes. For example, earlier this week the South Carolina attorney general found that 953 ballots were cast for people that were already dead. Also, while volunteers at voting booths are supposed to see an ID before letting people go into the booth to vote, that oftentimes doesn’t happen.

One author familiar with the situation, Darin Gibby, said that voting online can be made to be just as secure as using your credit card online. A few ideas he points out are to possibly give voters a one time password that once used, expires and can’t be used again. Another possibility would be to ask voters security questions that only they would know (although that seems like the weaker of the two options he presents). One of the biggest advantages to moving voting to online would be the ability to do an instant check against federal records, so problems like dead people voting would hopefully be avoided.

Gibby goes so far as to propose biometric identification required for voting online. Many laptops are now coming equipped with fingerprint scanners just to gain access to the laptop, so why not require voters to use a fingerprint scanner that could plug into a USB port before they’re allowed to vote online? As great as these ideas are, getting the government to change its ways always ends up being a long, long process.

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