Internet Voting…But Not What You Think

The Washington Post has an interesting story today about online protesting. The article discusses how the Internet can help people with similar interests bring their concerns to the establishment with more backing than would occur if each individual operated independently—or merely harbored concerns but did not see an outlet for speaking.

This is interesting for elections because the Internet has been used for both protest–for example, against electronic voting–and for facilitating vote trading (the so-called Nader Traders). As the author notes:

But online activism is not just for cranky customers, rabid gamers or television fans. Sometimes, it can reach the highest levels of political action. In 2000, and again in 2004, so-called vote trading or “vote pairing” Web sites popped up nationwide. These sites helped voters from different states coordinate their votes to undercut what many regarded as the undemocratic effects of the electoral college on presidential elections.

These sites helped transform voting — the icon of individualized and conventional political participation — into a collective and highly contentious political act. These vote-swappers took on one part of the Constitution (the electoral college), while relying on another (the First Amendment). Without the Internet, it is unlikely that this movement could have emerged, or that voters could have been matched so efficiently.