Michigan’s Democratic presidential
caucuses are shaping up to be a critical battleground for the nine
presidential candidates seeking to defeat President Bush. With an
extremely competitive field, the presidential hopes of each of the
nine Democratic candidates depends heavily on the support of
Michiganders. With the stakes this high, the Michigan Democratic
Party’s plan to allow Internet voting in the upcoming caucuses has
many of the candidates up in arms. Seven of the nine Democrats
running for president have challenged the plan, claiming that it
opens the electoral process up to attack from hackers and viruses
and will exacerbate the disparity in turnout between the upper and
lower economic classes.

Utilizing the Internet both as a fundraising tool and as a
recruitment engine, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has bolstered
his support among the computer savvy. The result of such tactics is
evident in a recent Sarpolus poll, in which a full 25 percent of
Dean supporters claimed they would use the Internet to cast their
votes if given the option. No other candidate was able to muster
more than 14 percent. Understandably, Dean is one of only two
Democratic candidates who supports online voting.

The other seven candidates have taken strong issue with the
plan. Their concerns are not ungrounded. Statistically, access to
the Internet and computer technology is far greater in middle to
upper-class households. Additionally, minority access to these
technologies is also limited, as only 23.5 percent of
African-American homes, compared to 46.1 percent of white
households, are wired for Internet access. In a letter to the
Democratic National Committee on Oct. 2, many of the presidential
candidates expressed their concern that the use of the Internet in
the Michigan elections would marginalize the votes of minorities
and the poor and ultimately undermine the electoral process.

The motives of these candidates, however, are not unimpeachable.
In a July appearance before the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People, Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri
supported Internet voting. Both Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut
and John Kerry of Massachussets signed a Democratic Leadership
Council statement of principles that endorsed Internet voting. Yet,
when staring down the barrel of a Dean victory in Michigan, all
three lawmakers have reversed their positions, falling back on the
traditional arguments against online voting.

Internet voting deserves a more honest discussion. In the
future, Internet voting may be an improvement over our current
voting technology, but when the majority of Democratic candidates
attempt to demagogue the issue, this discussion cannot take place.
Instead of engaging in the much-needed discourse on the role of
Internet voting, some of the Democratic candidates have let the
principles of raw political advantage motivate their actions.









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