News / USA

    Utah GOP to Test First-Ever Statewide Online Voting in US

    Related Articles

    11 Ways to Keep Yourself Safe Online

    Worried about protecting yourself from hackers? Here's a few basic steps you can take right now to keep the bad guys at bay

    Americans Fear Eroding Privacy Online

    Both the government and private firms seen as threat to online security and privacy

    How Far Will US Supreme Court Go to Protect Digital Privacy?

    Ruling that mobile phone searches require warrant raises hopes that other data, too, will be protected

    UPDATE: March 29  This story incorrectly said the March 22nd Utah Republican caucus the first state-wide test of voting by Internet in the U.S. In fact, the 2000 Arizona Democratic primary allowed voter to vote online; the Utah caucus was the first use of blockchain technology in voting. You can read more about the 2000 Arizona online vote here.  


    This Tuesday, March 22, when Republicans in Utah caucus to nominate a candidate for U.S. President, many of them won’t actually be in Utah. In fact, some won’t even be in North America. That’s because for the first time ever in the United States, a state party will allow voting via the Internet.

    Members of the Utah Republican party who either can’t make it to a caucus site, or simply choose to participate via the Internet, will be able to cast their ballot by registering online at the party’s website. Once registered, online voters will have all day – from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. MDT – to select which candidate they want to be this year’s Republican presidential nominee.

    "I think it's going to be great," Utah Republican Chairman James Evans recently told the Deseret News during a demonstration of how the online voting will work. “There's not a reason for anyone not to participate." (Utah’s Democratic state party is not allowing online voting this cycle.)

    The idea of voting for national office may strike some Americans as new and untested, but in fact a large number of jurisdictions around the world have already moved parts of their electoral process onto the Internet.

    The firm selected to coordinate this first-of-its-kind vote in the U.S. is Smartmatic, an international operation based in Britain with experience in online voting. Since its founding in 2001, Smartmatic says its technology has been employed at national level elections in Uganda, Estonia, the Philippines, Brazil and Belgium, among others.

    “If you think about the criticality of the democratic process, I don’t think there’s another transaction as a citizen I take that has that level of significance and importance as voting in an election,” says Mike Summers, a program manager at Smartmatic and key developer of the technology.

    “Who thinks the notion of requiring people to go to a particular location at a particular time on a particular day and use a pencil and a piece of paper which is then counted by hand is a good idea? It just seems at odds with how we lead our lives today,” Summers told VOA.

    FILE - A laptop computer featuring Windows 10.
    FILE - A laptop computer featuring Windows 10.

    How it works

    The process in Utah will work like this: Internet voters first register online with some personal information. Once confirmed as party members, they’ll receive a unique cryptographic key they will enter when voting on the party website. At the site, voters will be able to learn about the candidates and even change their ballot before submitting their vote; once a vote is submitted, however, it is permanent and unchangeable.

    Summers, who will be on-hand in Utah to monitor the election, said voters need to trust that any system they use is safe and secure – be it pencil and paper, punch cards or an online website. “It’s secure, private, and no vote can be changed or deleted, and no bogus votes can be introduced into the ballot box,” he said.

    To accomplish that in Utah, Summers says Smartmatic’s technology will employ cryptographic blockchains – the first time anywhere that technology will be used in an online vote. Blockchain technology is a type of distributed digital ledger first used by Bitcoin to create permanent, secure and cryptographically protected records of various transactions, such as purchases or votes cast.

    The move online may make unique sense for Utah. An overwhelming majority of residents there are members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, also known as Mormons; many of whom spend several years abroad doing missionary work.

    Traditionally in U.S. elections, voters who are abroad, such as missionaries or U.S. military service personnel, have relied on ballots sent back and forth through the mail. But Summers says postal voting is notoriously unreliable.

    “There’s no security around postal voting,” said Smartmatic’s Mike Summers. “In many instances, only 20% of those postal ballots make it back on time. I see Internet voting as the perfect replacement.”

    A representative of the Utah Republican party told VOA that the Internet isn’t being looked at to replace actual voting at polling stations, but merely to make it easier for party members to participate in the process.

    Mike Smith agrees. “I don’t think anybody’s proposing that online voting is there to replace polling station voting,” he said. “We would just like to see more and more voters pushing at county and state levels and asking for this, telling their governments they want to be engaged and want more of this.” 

    Doug Bernard

    Doug Bernard covers cyber-issues for VOA, focusing on Internet privacy, security and censorship circumvention. Previously he edited VOA’s “Digital Frontiers” blog, produced the “Daily Download” webcast and hosted “Talk to America”, for which he won the International Presenter of the Year award from the Association for International Broadcasting. He began his career at Michigan Public Radio, and has contributed to "The New York Times," the "Christian Science Monitor," SPIN and NPR, among others. You can follow him @dfrontiers.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    This forum has been closed.
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora