Saturday, February 11, 2012

Americans Elect Invites Vote Buying & Selling, Rejects Voter Privacy!

AE presents itself as a bold alternative to the two-party system. “Pick a person, not a party,” they say. All you have to do is be a registered voter, and sign up on their website at Then you will be eligible to vote ONLINE for any of the qualified candidates in their primary competition.

Up to this point, the project seems to have some promise as a democratic reform. Any registered voter can participate, no matter what party affiliation, or no party affiliation. Candidates can self-select, or be drafted, and don’t need any campaign contributions to be considered by the voters. Best of all, from my point of view, they are going to use Internet voting.

Unfortunately, the process is far from flawless. As first reported in Rick Hasen’s Election Law blog, the AE vote will NOT BE A SECRET VOTE. According to AE, “Each vote is tied to name. Necessary so we can audit the convention afterwards. This is not a secret vote (like the general election is).”

What are they thinking? Does AE have a public relations Death Wish? Let me try to put this problem in context.

Internet voting is being used all over the world. In Europe, Estonia, Switzerland, and Norway use it. In India, the state of Gujarat uses it (and in a recent election had over 77% turnout). Based on the several successful online votes in Canadian cities, Elections Canada, the agency that runs national elections, has requested that the government make Internet voting its official voting technology. In the USA, Hawaii, Kings County Washington, and West Virginia have used it. Both France and Mexico City are planning to use Internet voting for their overseas voters.

Each of these systems was set up by teams of professional technicians who knew what they were doing, and did it well. No security breaches or hackers changed any votes, or violated the privacy of any voters. These systems were set up to allow voters to log on, have their eligibility verified, and then vote on the secure servers which held the voting website. Separate modules verify the voter’s registration, and keep the record of the vote. Thus, no voter’s privacy is compromised. Also, since there are no records kept of a voter’s name and how he or she voted, no one can prove to a potential vote buyer how he or she voted.

AE declines to use this well tested Internet voting technology. Instead, they use a process that dredges up some of the worst election practices ever used. They reject the principle of voter privacy, and they will keep both an electronic and a paper copy of the voter’s name and vote together. Indeed, these records will be shared with the auditing company they have hired. Untold numbers of people will read these names and votes.

Worse still, I have been told that AE will mail out paper copies of name and vote together to each voter, so that he or she can see how his or her vote was recorded. If so, what a handy receipt this will be for a vote seller to show a vote buyer!

Haven’t the Ackermans ever heard of the “Australian Ballot”? This was once a major reform of election practices in the US. Now AE is going to ignore this reform and thereby invite a resurrection of the very corrupt practices the reform was meant to stop.

AE has a lot of promise as a democratic reform. But once people, who are eager for more democracy, see what they are getting into, who will want to support such stupidity?

There is still time to correct this misguided slipping into the worst of America’s past, when voters had no privacy and votes were bought and sold. True Internet voting is being done around the world. Even the vote for the Oscars in 2013 will be true Internet voting! Hey, AE – lets get with it!

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
Political Scientist, author, speaker,
CEO for The Internet Voting Research and Education Fund, a CA Nonprofit Foundation
Twitter: wjkno1

Author of Internet Voting Now!
On Kindle and in paper

For my discussion with Joshua Levine about AE potential PR problems, see this


Rob Weber said...

Hi Bill!

Another great post as usual. I know you are an optimist at heart and that you are sincere in your hope that AE could succeed in some of its goals. I also know that you were concerned from the beginning that they would not take seriously the implications of taking their online voting lightly.

To be sure, those who are against online voting under any conditions will hope to have a field day with any failings in AEs process that relates to the online vote.

It will be another DC for the fearmonger mills.


Anonymous said...

I think this article raises some valid points, but to be fair, AE is not using its technology to handle voting for the General Election.

The vote AE is conducting is for who the participants involved want to put on the ballot FOR the General Election under the AE banner.

For example, when the Democratic or Republican Party choose the party nominee of their particular state, is this always a secret ballot process?

If the voters in a state vote by a Primary, votes may remain secret.

If a state holds a Caucus, votes to a candidate may not be secret at all.

Voting in General Election requires absolute, pure privacy. Is that same level of secrecy also required for Organizations to elect their Nominee to put on the Ballot?

aurora1920 said...

I too appreciate this post!! I am very enthusiastic supporter of AE because I think it has POTENTIAL to transform American politics BUT my questioning antennae tell me we must have people like you to analyze and keep pressure on. Not just negators -- but people who have expertise as you seem to do. You need to make an op-ed piece of this and send it to the NY Times.