It’s a bright Monday morning. Sunlight warms your face and coaxes you out of sleep. You fumble for your phone in your half-woke state. The blue light of the screen snaps you awake as you scroll through Facebook, typing “lol” with a straight face. Caught up on the morning’s memes, you open up your MyGovernment App. There’s a proposal to change the dates for leaf removal in your town. You skim the proposal, hit “Vote Yes,” then roll out of bed to head to the bathroom.
Voting could really be that easy in the 21st century. Instead of absurd lines, missing mailboxes and endless recounts, we could vote while we sit in traffic. Or while waiting for dinner. Or during halftime. And we could know the results of races almost immediately. All of this is possible with technology that is available today.
Online voting is not new, but it is rare. Estonia is one of the only countries in the world with an online voting system that it’s been running since 2005. Voters log in to a secure system, and can cast their votes from any internet-connected computer. Forty-four percent of Estonians have used what they call “i-Voting.”
Imagine this system taken to the next level with cell phones. Government at all levels could publish notices and important information directly to individuals. In our wildest dreams, this could be the beginning of a digital democracy. All people would be able to vote directly on legislation from an internet-connected device.
Government at the state and even federal levels could work through direct democracy. People could receive a notification when a new bill is proposed. After clicking on the notification, a window opens to the text of the bill. There are other links that lead to helpful information about the bill, its effects and statements from supporters and opponents.
The vastness of the internet means we could experiment with ways to deliver information for a diverse nation. The information provided to people doesn’t have to be in the form of dense written pieces. It could be short video clips. It could be an audio clip read in Spanish. It could link to expert testimony, media analysis and thoughts from regular citizens. The possibilities are endless.
Instead of the sometimes Herculean effort it takes to vote, we can turn voting into a social media habit — check your Facebook, check your Instagram, check your MyGov. We have the technology to deliver information directly to people and truly empower them to participate in their communities. We already do it for everything else except voting.
I am not the first person to have this idea, and there are certainly technical and security challenges to be worked out. But if we’ve found a way to send money online securely, then securing votes is possible as well. Digital democracy also requires better access to the internet for all people, which is another challenge to overcome. It will take sustained interest and work to build a digital democracy, and it starts with imagining yourself at home, in bed, voting. How awesome would that be?
Jamil Ragland writes and lives in East Hartford. You can read more of his writing at www.nutmeggerdaily.com.
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