Is voting an activity for ‘old people?’

Amy Knop-Narbutis

Only one out of every two eligible voters will vote in the next presidential election. While political apathy, a lack of civic responsibility, and general laziness may be the problem, critics have been naïve enough to suggest that the solution lay not in changing our attitudes, but in changing the voting system. Many have claimed that forming an Internet voting system would revive the voting rate by increasing access to the voting process.

Yet the logic behind this proposal has two conspicuous errors. First, it assumes that our lack of political participation is a result only of the slight inconvenience we must undergo to leave our houses and vote, rather than being a result of general political disillusionment and disinterest. Second, it ignores the impracticality of Internet voting itself. Our current state of technological progress, which has not advanced far enough to completely stop hackers, prevent pop-up advertisements, or filter spam e-mails, cannot be relied upon to successfully protect voter secrecy and security.

Studies of potential Internet voting systems, which would use electronic ballots to allow voters to transmit their votes online, have yielded interesting results. While Internet voting systems would increase voting access for millions of voters, the technological threats to security would be far too significant to ignore. The prevalence of viruses, Trojan horse software and hacking in internet use would make it impossible to securely transmit ballots.

Ironically, a highly secure Internet voting system, which would be designed to encourage voter participation, would require users to go through security measures that are so complex that they may deter voters from participating anyway. For example, authenticating the identity of voters to make sure that every voter could cast his or her ballot only once, would require an advanced, hacking-proof system that would take years to develop, and require users to provide complex personal information. Financially, developing such a system would also be impractical, as it would use up vital governmental resources which could be put to better uses, such as a political education program for eligible citizens.

A government program developed for the purpose of educating eligible voters would be a more powerful solution to voter apathy than merely changing the location of voting. Those who espouse Internet voting as the solution to reviving voter interest ignore the fact that it is generally a sense of unfamiliarity or lack of knowledge about the voting system that prevents citizens from voting, not simply a feeling of laziness that prevents them from leaving their homes to cast their ballots. Changing the voting system to a complex, technological process would only make more voters unfamiliar and uncomfortable with the process. The dependably high voter turnout amongst the elderly, which has been parodied by Urban Outfitter’s controversial “Voting is for old people” T-shirt, may not be a source of satire anymore: Internet voting could potentially alienate older voters, who may not adapt to technological advances as quickly as younger voters.

We cannot depend on changing our voting process to resuscitate our dying political interest. Instead, we must change our attitude. It is our individual responsibility to change political stereotypes. Why simply complain about a T-shirt that recognizes the problem of voter apathy, when you can do something to cure it? For ideas, visit “Rock the Vote” online at