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A new U.S. president was named last night. The pronouncement came 36 nights after the election took place and what occurred between then and now will be dissected for decades to come. Countless words—in every language—have been written on this unprecedented race for the U.S. presidency, and you can bet this is just a warm-up of what we can expect. Regardless of what side of the fence you’re sitting on (and where in the world that fence is planted), this event no doubt appears as much a spectacle as it is spectacular. Moreover, I doubt you will find an American who will not admit this election proved to be an extraordinary learning experience beyond anything that could have ever been found in print literature or in cyberspace.

An ironic twist in this sorted story—one certainly not lost on the authors and editors of this issue—is that technology (or lack thereof) seems to be a prominent player. We’ve seen a glimpse of how the Internet and other balloting devices are used—or avoided—nationwide and how popular opinion is measured—and fueled—in a digital constituency.

In that respect, we present an issue that examines the bumpy road to electronic democracy as attempted on a global scale as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the Internet as a premier voting mechanism. Our special section on e-democracy deals with the impact information and communication technologies (ICTs) are having on democratic practices as well as its potential for the future. Guest Editor Åke Grönlund composed a truly international section of e-democracies in action. We learn of worldwide endeavors; those that work to influence and inform constituencies as well as those designed to keep the public sector at bay. In every event, however, ICTs allow citizens and legislators to connect in ways that were never before possible, and that fact alone will continue to influence democracy down to its very roots.

Lance Hoffman and Lorrie Cranor introduce an editorial debate on Internet voting in public elections that focuses on the controversies surrounding the Arizona Democratic primary last March. This landmark usage of online balloting is supported by Joe Mohen and Julia Glidden, who discuss the efforts to increase access and protect privacy, while Deborah Phillips and Hans von Spakovsky question the risks and the equity of voting over the Net. Their debate offers some valuable lessons on the delicate nature of the digital divide. And in "Inside Risks," Rebecca Mercuri and Peter Neumann contend computer-related election systems are not the answer; indeed, this balloting avenue is fraught with potential fraud and danger.

Diane Crawford

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