Today my mother and I had one of our afternoon discussions, which I’m going to miss having when I move away next month. The topic turned to voting and how to get people my age to do it. My mother’s worried that young people won’t show up properly in the 2010 midterms.
Before I really even thought about it, I said, “People should be able to vote using their iPhones or Androids.”
I voted in the Kansas primary a couple of weeks ago. I went to a Methodist (or maybe it was Lutheran?) church not too far away from my house. Even with my spry age of 23, the average age of people in the room had to be 60+. The Lawrence Journal-World reported that Burge Union, on the University of Kansas campus, had only three voters as of 5 p.m.
Is it that people my age don’t care? That may be part of it, although I think we care more than we let on. But I think a lot of it is down to the fact that the act of voting hasn’t evolved enough to match our current technology. Some places still use paper; I voted using a big, boxy touch-screen. Yes, many constituencies allow online voting, but you have to be at a computer. You know, sitting in one place.
So here’s what I propose: Tie voting into today’s technology. Partner with Apple and Android (the big two) to develop official, state-sanctioned voting apps. Download the app, register and sign in using information from your voting registration and vote when the app goes live at the appointed time on the correct day. It could even be rigged to an alarm, or set as a promo on iTunes. The security required would obviously be immense, but then again I just went up to a table, gave a nice old lady my name and signed right in.
Geo-tagging outfits like Foursquare and Gowalla could get in on it as well. Check in, vote, get a badge. It works the same way with campaign work and activism. Did you canvass thirty houses? Get a badge, sponsored by the DNC or RNC. Do Starbucks and American Eagle want to sell coffee and polos while rewarding good citizenship? Take your smartphone in, show them your “I Voted” badge, get a free small coffee or 15% off your jeans.
Barack Obama’s campaign, it could be argued, was largely won through savvy use of social media. But that was two whole years ago, and the DNC and RNC’s idea that so-fake-you-can-smell them “blogs,” robot-like Twitter accounts and lots of Facebook “Likes” equates to smart social-media strategy seems woefully outdated. It takes little to no energy to hit the “Like” button or the “Follow” button. That doesn’t equal engagement. The best way to engage us is to meet us where we live, in the cloud.
My voting motto is typically, “I don’t care how you vote, but please vote some way.” And yes, not voting is just as emphatic a political statement as voting. But I think our elected officials and election gatekeepers might be pleasantly surprised if they took a little initiative.
Call it iVote.