Saturday, May 25

Xballot to make voter registration easy

Friday, October 18, 1996


Internet system ideal for college students going away to
schoolBy Linda Yoon

Daily Bruin Contributor

Sometimes it isn’t a lack of incentive or motivation that keeps
students from voting; it is the inconvenience. The need to
reregister is prevalent among many college students because their
"second" home is at a different address.

"A lot of students register in their home states, then they go
away to college … and they think, ‘Oh no, how can I get an
absentee ballot?’" said Steve Spencer, media director for Rock the

With the emergence of Xballot, a new international Internet
service, excuses for failing to vote can no longer be attributed to
a change of address.

Xballot is a non-partisan community outreach program supported
by Microsoft, Rock the Vote and the League of Women Voters. Open to
the public since Sept. 23, the web site’s goal is to increase voter
participation by providing absentee ballot requests through the
Internet. Organizers of the web site report that the service is
gaining popularity at colleges and universities.

"What’s happening around the country is that when kids find out
about our web site, they set up computers in the student unions and
they just plug into the Internet (and encourage out-of-state
students to request absentee ballots to vote)," said Jon Van De
Ven, co-creator and programmer of Xballot.

Of the 1,000 to 2,000 people using the web site each day, 80
percent are students, said Van De Ven. This is a possible
indication that more students, who may otherwise be ineligible to
vote in their district, may be voting this election year.

"I think that it would greatly increase voting percentage among
college students because it’ll be more convenient, therefore we
would have more say in what goes on politically in this country,"
said Ivy Morada, a second-year chemistry student.

Xballot speeds up the process of requesting and receiving an
absentee ballot, organizers say. According to Spencer, the attempt
to request an absentee ballot through the government is essentially
a run-around.

"Since the government is downsizing, (when) you try to get
anything done with the state government these days … you get
phone trees, long holdings, unfriendly public servants, and they
take messages which they never follow up on," Van De Ven said.

Van De Ven claims that within five minutes of logging on to
Xballot, they write a letter addressed to the on-line user’s
nearest elections office and send that letter to the registered
voter. The voter then signs the letter and sends it to the elected
office, and an absentee ballot arrives in a few days.

In addition to college students’ use of the service, Van De Ven
receives multitudes of e-mail from U.S. citizens in other
countries, stating that they want to vote but are frustrated by the
lack of assistance provided by the U.S. embassy.

"(U.S. citizens) say that when it comes to taxation, the IRS is
right on top of them … but then when you’re a citizen, they’re
all going ‘I don’t know, I can’t help you,’" Van De Ven said.

Van De Ven expresses the need for Xballot to receive national
exposure in order to become popular and influence the elections,
especially helping the youth demographic to voice their

He also said that the popularity of Xballot might encourage
on-line users to consider the possibility of voting via e-mail.
Currently, there is no Internet voting due to issues of security
and validation of voters. Van De Ven hopes to overcome these

"We’re going to gather signatures (through e-mail) to qualify
electronic voting for a ballot initiative, so that we can get it on
the ballot and force the state to appropriate money to allow people
to do electronic voting with a (personal identification) number,"
Van De Ven said.

But despite the turnout of users, Jeff Lin, a second-year
biochemistry student, doubts that Xballot will be able to overcome
voter apathy.

"It’s a valuable resource, but I don’t think it’s going to be a
feasible service because no one has heard about it," he said. "It’s
still the same thing as voting. … It’s not a high priority among

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