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Utah Republicans To Test Online Voting In State's Caucus

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's another election day here in the U.S. In Utah, as many as 30,000 members of the Republican Party will pick a presidential candidate in an online caucus. As NPR's Scott Detrow reports, it's one of the country's largest experiments yet in online voting.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: When Utah Republicans caucus tonight, they'll make their selections for offices up and down the ballot. GOP chair James Evans says he knows many people just want to vote for president.

JAMES EVANS: We didn't want to make them have to come to caucus in person if all they wanted to do was to express their preference vote for the presidential part.

DETROW: The solution - online voting. Evans says based on expected turnout, about 15 percent of ballots in Utah's presidential caucus will be cast online. And that has many voting experts worried.

PAMELA SMITH: Yes, it would be nice to be able to say, hey, I'd like to vote from home in my bunny slippers (laughter) but, unfortunately, the security of the Internet isn't there yet.

DETROW: Pamela Smith is the the president of Verified Voting, a nonprofit group that has raised consistent questions about Internet voting. Among the concerns - a vulnerability to hacking and the lack of physical ballots for inspectors to audit. The Utah Republican Party's James Evans points out that because caucuses are run by political parties they're not held to the same standards as government-run primary elections.

EVANS: We are a private organization. We've identified the risks and we looked to see if it was probable or if it was just in the realm of hypothetical. And we are comfortable that we have enough security procedures in place.

DETROW: That includes a 30-digit pin the party will assign to each voter. Evans says caucus-goers will also get a receipt which they can enter into a separate website to make sure their vote went to the right candidate. But Smith says that right there takes away the secret ballot that's critical to American elections.

SMITH: You can't call up the election official and say, hey, I voted for so-and-so. Is that what you've got? Because they shouldn't be able to tell you.

DETROW: So far, online voting experiments have been few and far between in the United States. This will be the most high-profile attempt yet. Scott Detrow, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.