Tuesday, October 11, 2016

New votings apps seen to increase turnout

For decades, election authorities in the U.S. have been puzzled over the dwindling number of people turning out for elections. Whether the reason is lack of interest, or lack of access to polling centers, or some other impediment, low voter turnout is proving to be such a pain point that it has received the attention of various sectors, even the developer community.

Recently, several innovative mobile applications have been released that aim to smooth the voter registration process. One such notable app is the appropriately-named Register to Vote which allows citizens in California, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Arizona, Colorado, and Massachusetts to register simply by scanning their state IDs.  It promises to complete the whole process in thirty seconds. The app’s most obvious benefit is the elimination of the cumbersome step of having to physically go to a registration to sign up.

Another app takes the chatbot approach in helping voters register.  HelloVote allows voters simply enter their mobile phone number on this site, or text HELLO to 384–387, and the app takes them through the filling out the voter registration form for their state.  Some states allow direct electronic submissions while some states require voters to fill out a form that HelloVote will send back via via email or snail mail for later submission to the local electoral body.

It’s not as if anyone is likely to forget when Election Day is. But sometimes little nudge helps in to actually go out and cast that vote. TurboVote provides that impetus by sending text and email reminders. Voters get a notification the day before election day complete with ballot information and information on the nearest polling center.   What’s even more interesting is the TurboVote Challenge, which get top companies and leading organizations into a a nonpartisan advocacy to increase voter participation.

Reversing the voter turnout downtrend is a tall order yet innovation could provide just the needed spark to get voters trooping back to the polling centers.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Election Performance Index: a thorough analysis of the North American electoral system

As Election Day draws nearer, poll-related studies continue to be conducted, throwing further light on the current state of American elections and the developments it had undergone.

Recently, the PewTrust Research Center published the Election Performance Index (EPI), a comprehensive evaluation of the electoral system in all of the nation’s 50 states – including the District of Columbia. The study took into account 17 key indicators.

The EPI covers the 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 elections, measuring variables related to the problems faced by voters with disabilities, the availability of an online register, the voting of military personnel deployed abroad, voter turnout and the number of voters registered.  

These indicators reflect how several states have managed to improve their performance during elections, particularly when it comes to online registration and waiting times to vote.  

-          Online registration: Since 2008 there has been a steady increase of the number of states that offer this option to voters. This year, only two states (Washington and Arizona) opted for this technology upgrade. Today, over 20 states offer an online solution for voter registration and the update of their data.  

-          Voters with disabilities: During the past 4 elections, the District of Columbia, Mississippi and Alabama polled over 20% in the EPI when it came to voters who were unable to vote due to an illness or disability, due to the lack of proper conditions at the polling places and of solutions offered by the voting system.  

-          Voter turnout: The EPI reflects two important changes. On the one hand, during the 2008 and 2012 general elections, voter turnout did not surpass 80%, while for the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014 this index dropped to a mere 58%.  

These indicators, in addition to others in the study, show how states can continue to develop their electoral systems to offer voters more accessibility, transparency and security. These variables could be improved by the use of technology, leading to a stronger democracy. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Democracy Day: Developing countries use technology to empower their citizens

Developing countries are now beginning to realize the power of technology in helping them deliver services more efficiently and provide their citizens with the tools needed for them to get involved in government initiatives more – especially in elections.

Asia and Africa are blazing the trail in this trend.  In the past ten years, countries such as India, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe have rolled out innovations to improve the transparency, security, precision and reliability of their elections, positively impacting their democracies by committing to the objectives of the 2030 Agenda, the theme for Democracy Day 2016.

In India, the authorities have focused on a plan to improve their education system through e-government, guaranteeing better management and attention to the students in the country’s schools.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited startups and investors to join the efforts to develop automated voting machines that meet international security standards (such as printed voting vouchers), adding mechanisms that make voting easier and more accessible.

Governments in Africa have shown an approach focused on technology that modernizes electoral registries and makes voter authentication more effective.  Uganda successfully tried out a biometric system that was deployed at the polling centres, considerably reducing the possibilities of fraud.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is analyzing the implementation of biometrics for the 2018 elections, in order to improve the electoral system by making it more inclusive and reliable.

The free world needs to adapt to the rapid advancements in technology and learn to harness its great power if it is to solve the many challenges confronting democracies nowadays.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Swiss citizens abroad push for a reform to allow e-voting

The Council of the Swiss Abroad (CSA) has decided to find mechanisms to increase the voting turnout of younger generations and enfranchise Swiss citizens abroad by means of online voting. 
Therefore, the Council would like to implement this technology, already successful in countries like Estonia, a trailblazer and a leader in Internet voting, employing the practice in their national elections since 2005. 

During their annual congress, held in early August, the CSA debated about electronic and online voting, taking into account the constant requests to the Swiss government to employ innovations that make it easier for Swiss citizens abroad to vote.  

The CSA’s leading committee considers that broadening the possibility to vote for their members will grant the organization greater legitimacy. “The models applied by the UK and Belgium can serve as models for our communities in other countries”.  

Those promoting e-voting have argued that some Swiss expats lack the possibility to cast their votes, since postal voting is not reliable enough in some of the countries they reside in. 

With an Internet voting model it is possible to guarantee that citizens have access to the vote from anywhere in the world by using a smartphone, a tablet or a computer. This technology guarantees that the will of each citizen is recorded securely, transparently and precisely, doing away with the human errors that commonly take place during traditional manual voting.  

The CSA, which convenes every two years, represents the interests of over 760 thousand Swiss citizens residing abroad to the authorities and the media.