eVoting could just work – press the red button now

On last night’s radio show with @lynseydolan on Sunshine Radio, Lynsey asked me about e-voting which got me thinking about voter apathy, technology – and, that old reliable in living room, the television.

When you see a low-turn outs for elections it generally means that the voters weren’t interested enough or it was just too difficult to get to a polling station. Politics gets lots of air time – TV and Radio are full of often confrontational debate and newspapers and online serve up huge slews of analsyis. We’re never short on opinion. And yet, at election time, the blanket of lethargy seems to often settle over us.

My simple proposal is this: let’s use that pesky red button for something more useful than usual. Interactive TV, TV Players and on-demand TV; many of us have access to an interactive television service. Would this work:

  • – Push messages to people on their TV reminding them to vote this election
  • – Hit the red button for election publications
  • – Show users the list of candidates or proposed bills
  • – Allow a viewer to click on each candidate, get their offical message and dig a little deeper – say for instance view their voting history in all parliamentary debates since their election. View their claimed expenses for the last 12 months. View their declared interests.
  • – Push opinion polls (paid for) to users who’ll accept the polling enrollment
  • – Use the revenue from opinion pollsters & newspapers to fund the ‘evoting service’
  • – Then allow people to vote, during a 14 hour ‘polling day’.
  • – 90 minutes after voting, publish the results. In Brazil in 2010, 135 million e-votes were collated and there was a result – 75 minutes flat.

As we chatted about this on air tonight – I got a couple of messages. Security was the theme of both. And it is a concern – but it can be addressed. In countries where national identity cards are used it becomes easier. A combination of physical location, National insurance number and issued password could create a powerful 3 or 4 component method of authenticating you are who you say you are. Privacy. Yes, an issue, but one that can be addressed at the very start. As Dr David Jefferson puts the question – ‘..if I can bank online why can’t I vote online”‘

Electoinic voting has been around for years. Machines placed at polling stations, utilising punch cards – requiring people to still go to a polling station is not e-voting. In the 1960s these machines were used first and they would evolve into DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) using optical scanning. Used in the USA, Brazil and India these ‘single points of collection’ have given way, after some public concerns, to the idea of internet voting. Internet voting has been used in the UK, Switzerland and most recently Estonia. In Switzerland you get a voting password in the post, in Estonia it’s similar. A natural evolution for us in the wired economy, but you know, I like the TV.

I like TV in the equation because it’s in the home. It’s often still a focal point for families. Using the television could encourage people to debate, discuss or at least, study the facts. Informed voters are more likely to vote. And, what’s more convenient than voting from home?

External links & references

  1. Evoting in Estonia
  2. Dr David Jefferson & the security question
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