Activists object to Internet voting listen05/30/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Voting rights activists are objecting to a plan by Okaloosa County to experiment with Internet voting for overseas service members â€“ and theyâ€™re hinting at a lawsuit if Secretary of State Kurt Browning doesnâ€™t intervene.
Under plans for a pilot program fostered Okaloosa County Elections Supervisor Pat Hollarn, service members and other Okaloosa residents living in Germany, England and Okinawa would vote at computer stations on encrypted electronic ballots. A secure computer line would transmit the data to Spain and then back to Florida.
The program is called the Okaloosa Distance Balloting Pilot, but is being funded by a Virginia-based nonprofit called Operation Bravo, whose goal is to have remote electronic voting in place for all Americans based overseas by the 2016 election.
Voting rights activists, like Dan McCrea, agree with the Okaloosa Elections supervisor that the current system for overseas citizens is not working. But he thinks the problem in Okaloosa County is that it will use unsecure, high tech internet voting.
Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Pat Hollern agrees with some of the criticism of Internet voting, but said with the unreliability of the current system of garnering votes from U.S. citizens overseas, itâ€™s worth the effort.
Hollern says the plan is not intended for widespread voting, but instead is an alternative method of absentee voting. She says that in her 20 years as supervisor of elections, despite rising costs, she sees no improvement in the mail service.
But a criticism of her and the pilot project is that she is involved with Operation Bravo. Hollern rejects the conflict of interest charge.
The letter sent by the Florida Voters Coalition asks Secretary of State Kurt Browning to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that conflicts of interest are eliminated as a matter of safety, security and legality.
The Secretary of Stateâ€™s Office says itâ€™s too soon for their department to make a ruling of any sort.
Internet voting was used in the 2000 Primary elections in Pheonix, and in Michiganâ€™s 2004 Primary elections.