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Try this link: http://cbs.aol.com/flat_story_170420.html. If not, then this story can be found at: www.aol.comOnline First In Arizona Huge Turnout In Democratic Primary
Internet Balloting Gets The Credit
By CBS News Producer Theresa Bujnoch
What's touted as a wave of the political future has already come and gone in Arizona.
Ballots have been counted in Saturday's Democratic presidential primary, where 31 convention delegates were at stake and voters could cast online ballots four days in advance. With no more competition from rival Bill Bradley, Vice President Al Gore easily claimed another primary victory by a four-to-one margin. But the real winner was the primary itself, a symbolic vote of approval for the world's first legally binding online election.
It's "a victory party for Internet voting," said Arizona Democratic Party chairman Mark Fleisher.
"The results are clear. Arizonans love it," added Joseph Mohen, CEO of Election.com, the company that conducted the Internet balloting.
The online option boosted primary turnout. A total of 35,765 voters cast their vote electronically, about three times the number that participated in the 1996 primary. By Saturday night, an estimated 77,000 ballots were counted. Fleisher said the previous turnout record for a primary was 38,000.
Here's how the election worked. From Tuesday morning until Friday night, registered Democrats who received certified PIN numbers in the mail could vote on their home computers or at 104 early polling locations. On Saturday, the official primary day, voters who did not cast an online ballot could do their civic duty the traditional, paper-based way at 124 polling places across the state.
Fleisher, who fended off a court battle to conduct the online voting, said he expected the Internet balloting to attract mostly young techies and web surfers, but that wasn't so.
Most calls to the hotline assistance number were "from people who don't use the Internet at all," he said.
Among the neophytes: an 80-year-old woman, who came to the party headquarters to use a computer for the first time, and the President of the Navajo Nation, who had to be shown how to use a computer mouse.
Fleisher conceded a few glitches in the process. Older browsers, misplaced PIN numbers, and simple questions about navigating the election site kept the hotline busy. Some complained of waiting up to ten minutes to vote online during heavy volume times. Others said they could never access the voting site at all.
"With any new technology, there's always a few bumps in the road," said Bill Taylor, a vice president for Election.com.
Taylor attributed the slowdowns to heavy traffic, when the voting reached rates of one every three seconds. Despite the volume, Taylor said the system serving up ballot pages experienced no problems.
The next bump might be more legal action. The Voting Integrity Project (VIP) filed a federal lawsuit last month to block the Internet balloting. VIP contends the online election violates the Voting Rights Act, because it increases the strength of white voters, who studies show have greater access to the Internet.
"When you make voting more convenient for one sector you've got unequal access," VIP President Deborah Phillips has said.
A federal judge allowed the election to proceed, leaving open the possibility the results could be challenged later.
And this online experiment hasn't won everyone over. Some critics feel the Arizona Democratic Party rushed to be the first to hold an Internet election too quickly.
Michael Cornfield, of George Washington University, called the election "reckless" and a mere "promotional tool".
"You can't just plunge in with dot.com fever when the most fundamental act of democracy is" at stake, says Cornfield, who heads the Democracy Online Project, a Pew Charitable Trusts study of American politics on the Internet.
Cornfield called the primary discriminatory because those voting online, presumably those with access to computers, had four days to vote, while those voting the traditional way could vote only on Saturday.
While Cornfield believes Internet voting is inevitable, he feels more quality and privacy controls are needed. This is a "terrible way to start," he said.
Arizona Democratic Party chairman Fleisher insists online elections enhance opportunity and believes many people are voting who wouldn't be otherwise.
And could more people have voted in the primary simply because they had more time to do so?
"That's why this is better," Fleisher replied.
-- Jen Bunker (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 12, 2000