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Wednesday, 16 August, 2000, 00:06 GMT 01:06 UK
Democrats join internet revolution
Democrat convention
The Democrats' convention is a showcase for new voting technology
By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson in Los Angeles

Political parties in the US are racing to present themselves at the forefront of the internet revolution that has remade the nation since the last presidential election four years ago.

And nowhere is this more evident than at the party conventions.

Not to be outdone by the Republicans' efforts in Philadelphia, the Democrats have come to Los Angeles with a wealth of technological wizardry designed to wow and woo voters.


For the first time, delegates instead of phoning their votes to the podium will be casting their votes over an internet-based system

Election.com's Julia Glidden
In addition to providing streaming audio and video, the party will also handle many of its votes on an internet-based system developed by election.com.

On the convention floor, it is hard to miss the shiny iMacs sitting by each state signpost.

Delegates will enter their own personal pass codes, and then cast their votes on issues as well as cast their votes for their party's nominees.

"For the first time, delegates instead of phoning their votes to the podium will be casting their votes over an internet-based system," said Julia Glidden, election.com's vice president of public affairs.

Democrat convention terminal
Each state has its own voting terminal
After all of a state's delegates have cast their votes, the head of the delegation then clicks to submit, she said.

But the internet will not sweep away all traditions. The states will still grandly announce their delegates' decision from the floor of the convention.

The online voting was spread over a week, but the number of voters casting their ballots on the first day of the internet-based vote equalled all the votes cast in the 1996 primary.

And the 78,000 total of votes cast was twice the previous record for turnout since the party began holding a primary instead of a nominating convention in 1984.

Global e-democracy

Online voting will spread to democracies and private organisations around the world.

Anne Hock is the managing director of election.com's UK operation.

The company bought an existing balloting company that had been operating in the UK.

For years, they helped organisations conduct their elections the traditional way, with paper ballots in the post, but now the company offers voters a choice.

Democrat convention
Online voting is expected to spread to other countries
The firm is just beginning to offer internet-based voting services, but it already has experience using telephone-based voting systems, Ms Hock said.

And she said that users found it easier to communicate and be informed using the telephone system, and she expects internet-based voting to build on that.

IT consultancy The Gartner Group predicts that the 2000 election will be the last presidential election to offer only in person voting and absentee ballots.

Complaint

By 2004, the consultancy predicts the government will have some form of internet voting.

With the Democratic Convention being held just downstate of Silicon Valley, the "digerati" are out in force offering up their assessments of the internet's impact on democracy.

Noted venture capitalist Esther Dyson said that by focusing on elections, people are missing where the Internet will first impact politics.

Quoting a former US House of Representatives speaker, she says that all politics is local.

She sees people using the internet to lobby their local sewer authority to make repairs, or to make a complaint on how they are tearing their hair out because of the Department of Motor Vehicles. 

And just as in the world of e-commerce merchants, where consumers gravitate to sites that are responsive, Ms Dyson said: "I expect a candidate who is successful will be the one who is more responsive."

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See also:

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