Utah Republican Caucus Will Let Voters Cast Ballots Online — which Could Triple Turnout

Next week’s Utah Republican Caucus will be the first of its kind in the history of the United States.

The state’s Republican Party will allow Utah voters who registered for online voting by March 15 to vote from anywhere in the world for a 2016 GOP candidate.

That means voters can use cell phones and tablets as well as computers — any “device with Internet connection” to log in and vote with the personal identification number that was sent to them via email or text message upon registering.

As a result, the Party expects turnout in next Tuesday’s caucus to be triple what it was in 2012, executive director Bryan Smith told Utah’s Deseret News.

“We’re stepping out on the national stage in a way we never have before,” Smith told the News. The project’s intent is to allow people like working mothers and missionaries to still be able to vote, he added.

“She can go on Instagram, so she can also vote,” Smith said. “And that’s the goal. There’s a lot of youth here that may be somewhere else on missions. They’re still able to participate online.”

GOP voters can participate in the “simple and secure” voting process from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on March 22. The state’s Democratic Party will not also enable online voting on Tuesday.

Since this is the first time that a system like this has been used widely, many are skeptical.

From the Deseret News report:

Other experts worry about security concerns, specifically that hackers will attack voters who participate online.

Still, there have been some test projects to determine whether online voting can work. In 2004, the military tested a program where service members overseas could vote online, but it was scrapped over the government’s security concerns, CNN reported.

Similarly, in 2010, Washington, D.C., allowed overseas military workers to download an absentee ballot from the Internet. That system was hacked within 36 hours of going online.

In the first 12 Republican contests of this election cycle, turnout has been 17.3 percent of eligible voters – the highest of any year since at least 1980, according to the Pew Research Center.

Republican businessman and front-runner Donald Trump has argued that higher turnout benefits him. If so, online voting could give him a better shot of beating Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the ultra-conservative southwestern state.

In the most recent GOP polls in Utah, Cruz and then Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — before he dropped out of the race last night — were leading narrowly in Utah.

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