Majority of voters expect online election voting within five years

A survey from OneLogin found members of both parties expect voting to go digital sometime soon.

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An increasing number of US voters expect elections to go digital within the next five years, according to a new survey from OneLogin. Researchers with the company spoke with 1,000 prospective US voters to poll their thoughts on online voting, finding that 59% of respondents believe elections will be conducted through digital means in the near future. 

As one might expect, younger voters were more interested in online voting than their older counterparts. Nearly 50% of millennials and 55% of Gen Z respondents said they would be more likely to vote if given online options, yet just 35% of people over 74 said they would be interested in it. 

"We have a need, which is that there are a lot of voters who are not getting access to voting that want it. Now you have the technology that can overcome this need and you have a situation like a pandemic, a compelling situation or event that is highlighting the need," Brad Brooks, CEO and president of OneLogin, said in an interview. 

"The belief of a majority of respondents is that this is going to happen within the next five years. I can tell you that three years ago that would not have been the case. Acceptance has greatly accelerated because the tyranny of the urgent has been brought on by COVID-19 and more interaction with technology. The 1850s are knocking and they want their voter methodology back."

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Almost 50% said that if it was possible to vote online, they would be more likely to vote in the general election this fall.

Brooks said a main reason the company decided to conduct the survey was because of the coronavirus pandemic and how it might affect turnout in November. The pandemic already forced dozens of states to make adjustments for local elections and primary races. 

The state primaries held throughout the country over the past three months have been rife with complaints about long lines, broken machines and cumbersome regulations that made it difficult to cast a ballot. 

The OneLogin survey found that options for online voting would boost voter turnout among minority groups that are chronically left out of the voting process. More than 50% of both Black and Hispanic respondents said they would be more likely to vote in the fall if given the option to vote online. Brooks noted that online voting would not solve every issue. Many of the same communities struggling with in-person voting problems would face similar issues with online voting considering broadband access is still spotty and there are still many people without devices. 

"One of the big drivers for this survey was looking at what happened in some of the states that were having primaries right in the middle of the first wave of the COVID-19 crisis. We saw the reduction of voting places and the lines that were going out the door for seven hours," Brooks said. 

"We saw how it was particularly impacting certain socioeconomic and racial communities more than others. All that got us to thinking about having this conversation now. What would be more convenient or more appropriate in this type of environment than being able to do it online? There are a few countries that have already started doing it. Let's see what the receptivity to it is in the American population."

The survey found that members of both parties wanted some form of online voting, with just 37% of Republicans and 12% of Democrats telling researchers that they did not want online voting. 

Brooks noted that many of the problems respondents had with online voting were similar to those that have been aired about voting through the mail. Fraud (77%) and lack of security (75%) were some of the main concerns respondents had with online voting, while increased turnout (61%) and convenience (68%) were cited as the major upsides. 

When researchers asked about the security measures that would need to be taken in any online voting scheme, many respondents balked at time-consuming measures. More than 60% of respondents were willing to go through at least three levels of authentication before voting but 48% said they would not spend more than five minutes for online voting. 

Just 5% said they would be willing to invest more than 30 minutes into any online voting process even though that's generally how long it takes for some to vote in person, Brooks added.

He explained that state governments would need to create digital IDs, either through blockchain technology or other means, to create verified ways people's identity could be confirmed. 

Despite widespread expectations that online voting is on the horizon, the vast majority of respondents to the survey expressed little trust in any of the potential administrators or managers of the process. Fewer than 30% of respondents felt the government was "best equipped" to handle online voting but even less believed private companies or big tech organizations could do it either. More than 35% of respondents said they would not trust any of the choices. 

"The 2020 presidential election is happening in one of the most turbulent and divisive times in our country's history," Brooks said. 

"Since securing identities is core to what we do at OneLogin, we were curious to understand the opinions around online voting and cybersecurity. The results speak to the demand and call for safe and secure identity management, today, in the 2020 election, and beyond."

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