Purdue professor weighs in on idea of online voting

If you were hoping to one day cast your vote through the internet, don't plan on it anytime soon. That's according to a Purdue professor. WLFI/File Photo
If you were hoping to one day cast your vote through the internet, don't plan on it anytime soon. That's according to a Purdue professor. WLFI/File Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – If you were hoping to one day cast your vote through the internet, don’t plan on it anytime soon. That’s according to a Purdue professor.

While some voters will cast their vote early or send in an absentee ballot; traditionally, millions of Americans will head to a polling place on Election Day.

As time progresses, we’ve seen a change in the way we cast our votes.

“We’ve used a number of technologies over the years: we’ve used paper voting, paper ballots, voting machines. Some people may remember pulling levers on those machines,” said Eugene Spafford, Purdue computer sciences professor.

Voting may be inconvenient for various reasons — a busy schedule or even bad weather. An alternative has crossed the minds of some: casting a vote through the internet.

It may sound like a good idea, but Spafford said it could do more harm than good.

“I don’t foresee a time in the near future where there is an alternative to either going to a polling place or sending in a paper absentee ballot that is fully trustworthy and auditable.”

Spafford said while no form of voting is perfect, the concept of online voting could cause a series of problems.

“There are issues with almost every technology and it has to be very carefully designed to preserve accuracy, anonymity and verifiability,” said Spafford.

He is an advocate for ensuring each ballot can be accounted for.

“The best practices in use are using touch screen voting machines that print a paper ballot that the voter then verifies and deposits into a scanner,” Spafford said. “The electronic vote is still cast. But if there’s a question, we can go back and count the paper.”

Spafford said for the time being, we should just stick with the system we’ve been using.

“Voting is something that’s really critical to our form of government and to our belief in the validity of the system,” said Spafford. “If we sacrifice some of those issues for convenience or cost, we’re actually trading away something that generations fought for.”