In yet another testament to the reach of the Web, Arizona Democrats became the first Americans to vote over the Internet in a legally binding public election. Traditional balloting in the state's Democratic primary was held on March 11, but online voters could exercise their franchise with either a home or office computer between March 7 and March 10. The historic e-lection resulted from collaboration between the Arizona Democratic Party and Election.com, a Garden City, N.Y.-based company specializing in election services. “In the not too distant future,” said Bill Taylor, an Election.com vice-president, “it will be commonplace to do online voting.”
To start the process, Election.com mailed all registered Arizona Democrats a personal identification number. Those who wanted to vote electronically then logged on to either the Election.com site, or the party’s Web page, and entered their PIN. Voters were also asked personal questions, such as their date of birth for added security, before selecting their preferred presidential candidate. More than 26,000 e-ballots were cast in the first three days, double the traditional votes cast in 1996.
The process was not without contro-
versy. A Virginia-based group called the Voting Integrity Project tried to block the electronic balloting, on grounds that it discriminates against minorities and the poor who typically have less access to computers, but a judge rebuffed the challenge. Many of those who did vote online praised the convenience. Dennis Jensen, a resident of Sun City, even opened his home to his neighbours so they could use his computer.
In Canada, the House of Commons passed a bill on Feb. 28 that will give the chief electoral officer the right to test online voting. An Elections Canada spokesman said such a test would likely first be conducted in a byelection. The bill is now before the Senate. As yet, there are no plans for Canada’s first binding e-vote.
The chip war
In the world of personal computing, the one-gigahertz chip has long been seen as the holy grail. Last week, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., the world’s No. 2 chip maker, briefly held bragging rights to getting there first. It unveiled a computer chip capable of processing one billion bits of information per second. The revelry over the Athlon, however, was short-lived. The next day, AMD’s rival, market leader Intel Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif., rolled out its own onegig chip, a Pentium III processor, which it said would be cheaper than AMD’s. Experts say most Net-surfing, word-processing consumers won’t need the chips—yet, anyway—since they are best suited to high-powered graphics programs.
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