Online Voting Under Fire

A federal election official is calling Internet voting "a breeding ground for fraud" and a business-driven threat to democracy.

"The bottom line behind this push is money," said Bill Kimberling, deputy director of the Office of Elections for the Federal Elections Commission. "The noise being made to begin Internet voting is vendor-generated because a lot of new software and hardware will be needed to make it happen."

He said his views were personal and did not reflect those of the FEC.

"I don't want to vote over the Internet and I don't want anyone else to either," Kimberling said Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Maryland Association of Elected Officials.

Last March, voters in Arizona used the Internet in the nation's first such ballots cast in a binding election for public office. Arizona Democrats were also allowed to vote early in the state presidential primary using computers.

The Voting Integrity Project sued to stop the online election, arguing that it would harm the voting rights of the poor and minorities who have less computer access than wealthier whites. A judge refused to stop the election.

Kimberling agreed with the organization, saying Internet voting could intensify the "digital divide," creating a less diverse democracy because minority groups have more limited access to the Internet.

Kimberling said intimidation and vote-buying would be more likely when someone votes away from a polling place. In addition, the sanctity of the secret vote would also be in danger if ballots are cast on the Internet, he said.

"The FBI finds out who has child pornography in their computer systems by looking at e-mail that your computer server keeps," he said. "Nothing is totally secure."