Technology to Invite, Inform, and Modernize: How Platforms Support Democratic Participation

Cite as: 4 GEO. L. TECH. REV. 429 (2020)

Picture Election Day. It is probably a Tuesday (though not necessarily). Check-in tables in the high-school gymnasium sort voters by precinct, while plastic privacy screens fill the engine house of a nearby fire station. Some voters return ballots to drop boxes, while others mailed theirs back days ago.

Voting remains a manual process in an increasingly automated world. It is a tactile connection to democracy that goes beyond the enduringly popular “I voted” stickers. With a little squinting, one can imagine that the earliest voters would still recognize the process, in spite of the secret ballots and orderly quiet.

Look longer, and you may begin to see the increasing role of technology in elections. Many of the voters in line registered online. Others saw a reminder on Facebook or searched for where to vote using Google. And the check-in process relies on tablet-based electronic pollbooks, which connect to the local voter registration system in real time. It may be many years before we vote from our phones, but we already live in a digital democracy.

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Kathryn Peters

Civic technologist, voter advocate, and co-founder of Democracy Works, an organization
that makes voting a simple, seamless experience for all Americans so that no one misses an election.