I have a bold prediction regarding the coming presidential election in my native country. Remember, you heard it here first, before the actual election: this will be the last U.S. election using today’s antiquated voter registration and voting methods (did you actually think I was going to predict the next president of the U.S. states during a historically close race?).
Today’s savvy consumers, “digital natives” and yes, concerned voters, expect fast, seamless and personalized service on demand – which is why it’s so difficult to believe that in 2012, only a few states allow American citizens to register online to vote.
Thankfully, some young entrepreneurs are hoping to change this state of affairs. Seth Flaxman and Kathryn Peters co-founded TurboVote, an exciting start-up that aims to “make the voting process as awesome as renting a DVD from Netflix. You sign up, and we’ll keep track of all your rules and deadlines and even send you all the forms you need, so all you have to do is sign them and drop them in the mail. It’s simple. It’s fun.”
TurboVote’s website correctly notes that, “The Internet has made shopping, socializing, and yes, even movie-watching, awesome — but voting still requires you to fill out paper forms and go stand in line to cast your ballot in person.”
The start-up seems to be gaining traction, according to an article by Alex Fitzpatrick in Mashable. The company has apparently already signed 25 university partnerships, which include subsidies, and aims to partner with local governments.
Americans Elect, “the first national online primary,” is another interesting attempt to change today’s political processes and make voting more like our other daily experiences. Although the initiative has thus far failed, I am less interested in this specific group’s success or failure and its politics, and more concerned with future attempts to digitalize America’s voting process. Michael Eisner, former CEO of the Walt Disney Co. expressed hope in The Huffington Post that, “Americans Elect will help the public accept the digital political world so that, in 2016, we can have a more perfect democracy.”
It is undeniable that social media is shaping the way Americans consume political information. There were three million tweets during the first night of the Democratic convention, and there are at least 100,000 political Facebook pages in the U.S., according to Andrew Noyes, manager of public policy and communication for the Menlo Park company. Voters will naturally begin to wonder why this online immediacy can’t be transferred to voting.
I understand there are security concerns associated with things such as e-voting and online voter registration, but I believe today’s technology – which effectively supports online banking, commerce and security – can be successfully adapted to the political process. Americans, who like other global consumers are now accustomed to seamlessness and immediacy, will expect nothing less in the near future.