Electronic voting: Changing the world faster than a Windows upgrade

Even where I live voter turnout is pathetic! Barely 60% of eligible voters did so! We are even given allowances of up to 4 hours away from work (by law) to go vote. It’s mandatory in 19 countries - Brazil and Australia are noteworthy.

The world changes every day and often our lives get impacted every second by outcomes out of our domain or control.  Government institutions and the leaders we elected change political behaviors at a slower pace. Lawmakers react along party lines and tout change as the promised path to improvements. They have four years, sometimes longer, in office to create change.  It can take decades for policies and laws to actually happen in many parts of the world. The Internet world is pushing to shorten those time lines.

Computers, smart phones, and applications are now a part of the social fabric that we all use. It seems we are a very vocal bunch. No longer is it about having your own website or voice on a newsgroup posting -- that’s old stuff. Today, it’s being a part of a social network both as an individual and a group or business. You join different clubs and organizations, sign virtual petitions and speak out on issues and still talk to your lost long family, friends and make new ones.

Who would have ever thought that 300 million users would be on Facebook in such a short time? Language translation of a web page now takes place in a nanosecond. Nobody should to be left out if they are connected to the Internet. The world access to the Internet is now approximately 1.6 billion people -- roughly 25% of the population.

The recent global financial crisis was predictable by computer modeling, some argue -- if the regulators around the world had integrated laws and data sharing. That’s unlikely, given the reality of how much risk people were simply willing to take and given the lax rules that existed.  It's true, some blogs and information about the crisis that occurred exploded on the internet and published on many of the social websites we visit every day. Publishing articles about the disaster are global since it impacted so many people’s lives. Governments have reacted, this time quickly. Financial reforms and bailouts are happening around the world at lightning speed compared to normal government day-to-day ramblings. Government is listening, making fundamental changes in how they govern when they link to Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and many others and update almost daily. The White House is linked to all of them!

Are the changes in direction about faces to implementation of such web portals? Is this truly going to change governments and how they create law? As technology, security solutions and applications improve and become trusted, I would not be surprised to see certified referendums, municipal and federal government level voting on specific issues be made available and counted on web sites or portals, a reality within a year in some parts of the world. Some countries are already doing limited online voting (U.K., Canada, Switzerland) for elections. In the U.S., it has been used for primaries.

You’ll witness more widespread use of online voting in other areas of political interest, like throwing your elected official out of office upon running afoul of what their constituents were promised -- oh how we wish!  The platforms used at your local polling station are often electronic in nature. There are several manufactures of devices and software now in widespread use. And through social websites, already we’re seeing dialogue between individuals and government changing how we view our institutions. No longer will they have to hire expensive polling companies; they'll launch their own polls on these sites.

The Internet needs widespread deployment in places like the Middle East, Africa and other impoverished nations where voting is still a dangerous thing to do. If the $100 laptop truly gets delivered, it might affect the outcomes of elections in those regions. Ballot boxes stuffing and widespread electoral fraud is still commonplace. If voters could decide from their homes without fear of being watched or intimidated, turnout would see significant increases. Another technology to enable electronic voting is a smart phone, which is capable of secure and verified outputs. Cellular coverage is available to 85% of the globe.

Even where I live, voter turnout is pathetic! Barely 60% of eligible voters participated in the most recent election! (Yet we all love to complain don’t we?) We are even given allowances of up to four hours away from work (by law) to go vote. It’s mandatory in 19 countries – Brazil and Australia are noteworthy.

If we had nations leverage the use of voting online via the Internet, perhaps the turnout would improve. If we truly want to see progress -- as we have witnessed with the development and use of technology in other parts of our lives -- we need to take the next step and ensure that it’s available for everyone and everywhere. Voting on an electronic ballot website affects real change and is nanosecond fast.

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