Anyone who uses their phone to check the weather or the news, who sends texts to their friends or their kids, has, at one time or other, wondered when they’re going to be able to vote electronically. Electronic voting, or e-voting, would be so much more convenient than having to go somewhere to vote.
But where we go, when we talk about e-voting, is into uncharted territory. There are very few rules and regulations when it comes to e-voting. There are rules about electronic voting machines – the kind we use at the polling station when we have local, state, and national elections – but even those machines are subject to a wide range of inconsistent rules and regulations. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) does a great job of identifying the characteristics that we need in electronic voting equipment (such as physical security, auditability, the ability to correctly register and count all votes, and so on), but then they go on to showcase how many variations there are in the regulations implemented at the state and national levels.
None of that really addresses the question about the feasibility of e-voting as we touched on it at the top of this piece, either. Look for anything relating to rules and regulations that might help you vote in your next state representative from your phone and you will look for a long time.
What about electronic voting as it might relate to a board or shareholder meeting? Firms developing electronic voting systems must have given that some thought. And, to be sure, they have. There are applications and systems that are designed to enable e-voting for such meetings.
Yet here again we find ourselves in uncharted territory. What state regulations cover voting within your organization? What do your corporate by-laws say about voting? As the Law of Order blog points out, many state regulations and corporate by-laws presume that votes will be taken in person.
Indeed – think back to our previous discussion on what constitutes a quorum. The notion of a quorum involves the presence of some number of voting members. Can you have a quorum if your members are voting from other than the meeting place? Can you hold a vote if you don’t have a quorum?
When it comes to electronic voting, we still only have broad outlines of the rules that should govern how we do this. Whether we’re voting for local, state, or federal offices or whether we’re voting for new board members or corporate policies, we need security, accountability, auditability, and so on – but we may also need a new vision of how to conduct a vote that is fair, inclusive, and responsible. It’s still uncharted territory, and there be dragons out there.