« Deleted Scenes #02: The E-Rate Campaign | Home | Deleted Scenes #04: The Uprising in Indonesia »

Deleted Scenes #03: E-Voting in the 2000 Arizona Primary

Posted on Sat, Feb 11, 2006 at 1:18 AM by Andrew Chadwick

This planned Exhibit on e-voting didn't make the final cut of Chapter 07: Parties, Candidates, and Elections: E-Campaigning.

The first major innovation in e-voting came in the form of the Arizona Democratic Party's 2000 presidential primary (Alvarez and Nagler, 2001, Solop, 2001). The first binding Internet election for public office to be held in the United States, the primary offered voters a choice between remote voting via the Internet, traditional postal voting, Internet voting at 124 polling places and old fashioned paper ballot at the polling place. The election was handled by a private company, Election.com (now defunct). Personal identification numbers for individual voter authentication purposes were mailed to over 800,000 registered Democrats in Arizona along with postal vote forms. Voters could vote remotely during the three days leading up to the March 10 election day (Solop, 2001: 290). The results showed that just under 36,000 voters (41%) chose to vote remotely using the Internet. Traditional postal votes numbered just under 33,000 (38%). Only 16% turned up in person to mark a paper ballot, while 5% used Internet connected machines in the polling places.

Move beyond these basic facts, however, and the true significance of the primary becomes hazy. Frederick Solop argues that turnout increased a massive 723 per cent between the 1996 and 2000 primaries. However, Michael Alvarez and Jonathan Nagler point out that 1996 had been the first attempt at a genuine statewide primary in the state - for the Republicans. The Democrats were unable to hold a true primary in 1996 and fell back on a small-scale preference contest. Comparisons between 1996 and 2000 are therefore much less robust than historical comparisons across a number of years (Alvarez and Nagler, 2001: 1136). They also point out that overall turnout was poor: only 10.5% of registered Democrats bothered to vote at all, though they acknowledge that this could be a reflection of the fact that by the time of the Arizona primary it was obvious that Al Gore had secured the nomination.

There were other problems with the election. Around 4% of registered voters tried but were unable to cast their vote using the Internet, largely, it seems, because they were using web browsers that could not handle cookies or secure connections. A unsuccessful lawsuit filed by a group calling itself the Voting Integrity Project argued that unequal Internet access meant that the ballot would be racially discriminatory and therefore in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. (Solop, 2001: 290). There were also widespread security concerns about the e-voting system used by Election.com. No other states followed Arizona in 2000. In 2004, Michigan's Democrats held their primary online, causing many of the same issues to rise to the surface, effectively putting a moratorium on remote e-voting in the United States.


Alvarez, R. M. and Nagler, J. (2001) 'The Likely Consequences of Internet Voting for Political Participation' Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review 34 (3), pp. 1115-1152.
Solop, F. I. (2001) 'Digital Democracy Comes of Age: Internet Voting and the 2000 Arizona Democratic Primary Election' PS: Political Science and Politics 34 (2), pp. 289-93.

Edited on: Sat, Feb 11, 2006 1:36 AM

« Deleted Scenes #02: The E-Rate Campaign | Top | Deleted Scenes #04: The Uprising in Indonesia »