E-Voting as the Magic Ballot?
Synopsis: In post-industrial societies the use of the Internet for multiple functions in commerce and government has generated debate about whether the introduction of e-voting could reduce the costs of casting a ballot and therefore promote electoral participation. The argument developed in this paper makes three claims: first, the evidence from the distribution of Internet access in the 15 EU member states confirms that, at least in the short-term, the impact of introducing e-voting into elections to the European parliament could probably deepen and worsen the existing socioeconomic "voting gap". Second, even if we assume that use of the Internet gradually "normalizes" across the European population, there are still good reasons to be skeptical about any potential revolutionary benefits from e-voting on turnout. E-voting at home or work can be seen as analogous to the use of voting facilities exemplified by postal ballots, and the evidence suggests that the use of such facilities has had little or no impact on turnout. Instead, it is argued, the most important role of information technology in democracy lies in its potential capacity to strengthen the public sphere. As such the debate about e-voting may well prove largely irrelevant to the primary political impact of the Internet on democracy within the European Union.
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