Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why the future of democracy should embrace e-voting

What may be perceived as novel or foreign to an older generation could be the norm for the younger ones. They grew up around technology and it is their expectation that just about everything can be completed online in some way. They expect to use their smartphones and tablets to connect to the world. They expect to interact with the rest of the world in a digital way. Given this, they can view more traditional paper ballots for elections as an archaic and outdated practice, one that they may not wish to participate in because of this perception.

In the future, Government agencies should embrace having more technology involved in the electoral process, in order to engage the younger voters, stirring up their interest in politics today so that they will continue to be involved for years to come.

Indeed, this is why the Rock the Vote movement of the 1990s has suddenly received new life in 2014. The original movement played an integral role in the 1992 general election in the United States and it was through this targeted engagement of younger people that Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States. Voter turnout among those aged 18-24 dramatically increased during that period, voting overwhelmingly for Clinton. Indeed, it is similarly through technology, pop culture and the engagement with young people that current President Barack Obama got elected to office.

Leading up to 2014 midterm elections in the United States, Rock the Vote will be deploying an updated strategy to improve voter turnout among younger voters. The goal of the organization is to register 1.5 million people, focusing heavily on the youth vote. They're also approaching the Latino community and approaching issues related to the voting process that affect these demographics.

Getting young people to vote has historically been a challenge and it may be more difficult than ever. Less than a quarter of those polled by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics between the ages of 18 and 29 years old said they would “definitely be voting” in the upcoming election. That needs to change and e-voting could be part of the solution. Young people have said that they either don't know or can't be bothered with absentee ballots sent through postal mail; they would much prefer a fully online solution. If polling places had e-voting machines that were connected to a central network, it would be conceivable for these young voters to cast their ballot from anywhere in the country. The terminal would simply bring up their local information. That's just one possibility.

Considering that an increasingly number of less developed countries around the world—like India, Namibia and Nigeria—are embracing technology in some form or another for their elections and how this is actively engaging the youth demographic and getting them much more interested in the politics of their area, more developed and established countries like the United States need to catch up. They need to bring e-voting to the forefront and capture the interest of younger voters who have become increasingly disinterested and disenchanted with the democratic process.

E-voting, in one form or another, can help shape the future of democracy.