Email voting has its proponents, and its advantages. In situations of bad weather, or inconvenient polling places, or long commutes for potential voters, it can certainly be a boon. But New Jersey’s experiment with email voting this year has been called a “catastrophe” — so clearly, more work needs to be done before voting by email can be considered a practical solution.
New Jersey, along with other states including Connecticut, generally only provides e-ballots to overseas residents and those in active duty in the military. The state extended that law to apply to those displaced by Hurricane Sandy — but there was no easy way to tell if people requesting e-ballots had really been displaced, or if some may have just been hoping to take advantage of the new convenience.
So many people tried to vote by email in New Jersey that election officials’ servers were overwhelmed — prompting the state’s lieutenant governor to extend the deadline for e-voting to Friday, a full three days after Election Day.
Requests for e-ballots had to be made by email or by fax by 5 p.m. on November 6. But as officials told NBC News, each request has to be responded to individually — and eight workers were trying to process 3000 such requests at mid-day on Election Day in New Jersey’s Hudson County.
The bottom line is, it took these people a lot longer to vote by email than it otherwise would have to schlep over to their polling place — and I’m talking about times on the order of 24 hours or more, so I’m not suggesting anyone should have actually tried to vote in person instead. And New Jersey voters weren’t the only ones dealing with this. A friend of mine who lives in New York but is registered to vote in Maryland didn’t get her absentee ballot in time, so her county board of elections sent her a ballot by e-mail. It took eight hours for her to receive it. (She could literally have driven to Maryland and back in that amount of time). She posted her ballot by around 8 p.m. on Election Day — just as news networks started to call the results.
Two other obvious problems with e-voting — if you don’t have power or internet, it still doesn’t solve your dilemma And, many election watchdog groups say email voting is most susceptible to fraud. So, we have a long way to go before e-voting becomes the norm.