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Democracy At Your Fingertips: Will You Join The Mobile Voting Revolution?

by Nissa Szabo, published

It’s the 21st century; we may not have flying cars, yet, but the technological advances we have made over the past 25 years are astonishing. Where were you 25 years ago, and did you ever think you would have everything you ever wanted to know at your fingertips? It wasn’t always easy and it wasn’t always perfect, but we have more education, communication, and entertainment than ever before.

I have worked in politics for a number of years now, and in my time I’ve enjoyed watching the progression of how and when politicians and candidates interact with technology. With the launch of social platforms -- Twitter specifically -- communication has never been so concise and timely. As a legislative aide in the Colorado State Legislature, I saw constituents, political junkies, and even politicians depend on up-to-date news from a 140-character post.

Every election year, the issue of voter turnout is a major topic in the news and among campaigns. Get out the vote (GOTV) strategies are near the top of the priority list -- right behind fundraising efforts, of course. All of the GOTV efforts I have been a part of had a lot more to do with getting out the vote for my boss… and preferably not the other guy.

Millions of dollars go into GOTV efforts every election cycle, and still, less than 60% of eligible voters actually participate in a presidential election year, and don’t even get me started on voter turnout in non-presidential election years. In fact, the turnout in the 2014 election was the lowest in 70 years!

I am puzzled by the fact that the U.S. trails most developed countries when it comes to voter turnout. We are the United States of America; we are the most nationalistic, passionate group of individuals in the world. We love our country, we love our freedom, and let's be honest, we love our phones.

It’s not like voter turnout is a new dilemma; in fact, it’s an age-old problem.

Although technology and society have changed drastically, the voting process seems to be stuck in the past. You know the drill: fill-in your Scranton-like ballot, sign your name, put it in an envelope, throw a stamp on it, and put it in your mailbox. Then, you wait for election night with your fingers-crossed to find out if your team is going to have the chance to “fix” this country.

Or worst yet, you make arrangements to get off work (or before or after), drive to the polling station, wait in line, duck behind the curtain or behind the poll booth wall and punch your chads out.

And once you leave the polling station or drop your ballot into the U.S. Mail, how sure are you that your vote was cast and counted? I find it interesting that the ability to conduct a recount is legislated in most states and voting districts. If our current process was so good, why would a recount be needed at all?

I don’t expect perfection, but we put so much time, money, and energy into elections, I’m convinced there has to be a better answer.

I log into my bank account through a secure app on my phone. I access my HIPPA-protected health records on my phone. I depend on my phone for just about everything, but I still don’t have the option to vote on my phone. But could that be a solution? Could more access and a more familiar platform help bring more voters?

I know, I know, I know! It’s a crazy idea. It will never work, and won’t the Democrats get more votes, or won’t the Republicans get more votes if we do this?

There are questions that still need to be answered, but we all know this is inevitable. Whenever there is a drastic breakthrough there are also naysayers or folks who are not ready to progress to the next level, and there will be individuals who are skeptical of the validity and the security of mobile voting.

I think we should be concerned with the legitimacy of our vote now, and I am shocked more of us haven’t expressed concern about the current voting system.

Mobile voting is not a partisan issue. In a study involving 119 Republicans, 188 Democrats, and 199 independent voters, 61% of Republicans, 63% of Democrats, and 57% of independent voters said they would be willing to vote on their mobile phones if given the option.

Wait a minute, did the majority of Republicans, Democrats, and independents just agree on something?

Maybe they’re onto something...

As someone who has worked in politics, I see mobile voting as an opportunity for the U.S. to be ahead of other developed countries rather than behind like we have been when it comes to voter turnout. There are ways to cautiously and safely move the voting process into the 21st century.

I interviewed Pete Martin, the CEO and Founder of a company looking to bring mobile voting to the world. The company is called Votem, and they want to bring modern technology into a process that has stayed the same since the popularization of mail-in ballots. Being as security is going to be a major issue, Votem pulled in the former Chief Security Officer and CIO of Lawrence Livermore Labs for the Advisory Board. Keep your eyes out, Votem will be launching their mobile voting platform in the next few months.

What do you think of the idea of mobile voting? What would it take for you to feel comfortable with the idea of voting right on your phone, from anywhere you want -- Your job, your home, your kid's soccer practice.

Photo Credit: Pavel Ignatov /

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