Seemingly with the passing days we are going more online; technological innovation is expanding in a way never before imagined. This transition is often met with trepidation as the novelty of “going online” intimidates in a way that blinds the potential it possesses and the far-reaching benefits. Voting is no exception to this transition. Electronic voting, or E-voting, holds particular potential in the future of local elections.
Conceptually, E-voting is an aspect of GovTech, marveled for its enhancement to the accessibility, efficiency, and participation in the democratic process. Over the last decade, the country has seen a steady decline in voter turnout. For example, in last year’s U.S. House elections 107.7 million eligible votes were cast, which is only an astonishing 45.1% of the estimated, voting-eligible population. This trend is unable to be ignored, and local governments are working to identify issues and motivate their municipalities to get out and vote.
The greatest adversary local government is facing is the juxtaposition of citizens demanding change and reform, but are not exercising their democratic liberties to influence that change. Politicians face difficulty in accurately gauging public opinion without hearing it from the people directly. In combat of this, E-voting and government management software have been proposed as a way to modernize and streamline the current, traditional paper-based voting system. Should local governments begin utilizing E-voting, the effects will be seen in voter turnout, ease in tracking, and overall convenience.
What is E-Voting?
Electronic voting, or E-voting, is an online-format voting system, allowing for ease of access to all voting-eligible members. E-voting made an introduction to the public in 2000, it had such initial success, that Congress approved a project for the Department of Defense allowing overseas military to participate in digital elections. While the concept of online voting seems as though it would be a big transition, you may have more familiarity than you realize. Televised competitions have been utilizing electronic voting systems for over 20 years. People with vested interest in a show are encouraged to cast votes for their favorite contestants or are permitted to join in decision making processes.
Local governments are in no shortage of options, should E-voting be introduced within their municipalities. Direct-Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines are stand alone units with a touchscreen interface that would electronically count and record the individual votes. Alternatively, local governments may opt for internet voting where voters would enter a secure online portal and cast their ballots from any location. Should E-voting become the future, the convenience of these alternatives provides ample opportunity to streamline the voting process, reduce error, and increase accuracy in the report of election results.
E-Democracy: What is it? How does it relate to E-voting?
Electronic democracy, or E-democracy, refers to the abstract concept that E-voting is contributing to. E-democracy is the employment of digital interfaces and technologies in the effort to augment and facilitate the democratic processes, boosting citizens' engagement in government decision-making. E-democracy works to encompass a broad range of tools and practices with the underlying goal of optimizing transparency, participation to fortify accountability within the democratic process.
E-voting is one element of this concept coupled with several key aspects. E-democracy allows for online civic engagement where citizens can discuss, debate, and consult on policy issues, providing immediate input to government agents. Additionally, social media and online communities are instrumental in E-democracy. These forums provide a unique space for citizens to connect with one another, sharing information and offering mobilization to varying political causes. Similarly to E-voting, E-democracy seeks to reinforce democratic principles while continuing to promote citizens’ participation in the decision-making process.
What Common Challenges Does E-Voting Mitigate for Governments?
E-voting opens up entirely unprecedented opportunities for local governments to solve common issues that get in the way of the democratic process running smoothly. Here are a few challenges that E-voting can solve:
1. Accessibility and Inclusivity
The conventional paper-based voting method often places certain voters at a disadvantage, as it lacks the necessary accessibility modifications that help constituents voice their needs in the community. E-voting, on the other hand, provides a remarkable degree of flexibility by incorporating features such as audio interfaces and the option for enlarged text. This inclusive approach ensures that individuals who have previously felt marginalized or overlooked would now have the opportunity to participate on equal terms, promoting a more equitable and accessible democratic process.
2. Geographic Distance For Voters
Eradicating the need to travel to specific polling stations, and instead implementing e-polls, offers opportunity to people who are unable to get to those stations. Many may find obstacles in traveling to polling stations, and the online format provides a solution. Those who may be out of the country during polling (military personnel or travelers), those without means of reliable transportation, or those without access to necessary childcare would all be given an opportunity to play a role and cast their vote.
3. Voting Inconvenience
The underlying theme of advantages to E-voting all seem to provide convenience. E-voting has identified the problems citizens are facing, impeding their ability to engage in voting, and at minimum attempted to aid in the solution. Of all convenience provided, a leader is the reduction in long waiting times. During the 2020 presidential election, wait times averaged 20 minutes but in some municipalities, people stood in line for over an hour.
4. Human Error
An obvious appeal is the automated nature of the electronic format that leaves no room for human error. In the 2000 presidential election, a miscount of Florida’s votes resulted in one of the greatest political controversies in voting history, don’t allow a miscount like this to happen in your local elections. It is too absolute to say that E-voting holds no capacity for error, but the interface can assure reduction in misinterpretation and miscounts, at minimum guaranteeing more accurate results.
Learn about Bringing Artificial Intelligence to Your Municipality with GovPilot to incorporate AI into your local government operations.
5. Fraud Risks
E-voting offers a unique advantage in its capacity to implement heightened security protocols. When a voter casts their ballot from the convenience of their home, without the constraints of a physical queue, it allows for the integration of additional security measures. These safeguards encompass encryption, digital signatures, and robust authentication methods, ensuring the integrity and privacy of the voting process.
6. Slow Election Results
Slow moving election processes are a thing of the past, now that E-voting can reveal the results of an election almost immediately. Without the time consuming process of individually tallying each vote that comes in, the results are able to be viewed in real time. Virtual election results would be posted nearly instantaneously with electronic voting, which is another perk to switching to this online capacity. Learn which local government officials are being elected within minutes, with E-elections in your municipality.
Learn more about Streamlining Government Workflows with our resource.
Why to Embrace Electronic Voting For Local Governments?
Higher Voter Turnout
The convenience factor of E-voting is undeniable. Without the hindrance many face in transportation, available time, and accessibility issues, the likelihood that people will turn out for voting exponentially increases with the option to cast their vote virtually. Higher voter turnout means that more community-members are voicing their opinions, leading to better data driven decision making by policy makers, and better community improvements overall.
More Voter Inclusivity
The small steps taken to provide all with an equitable opportunity to vote, shows care and understanding for citizens at the individual level. This sort of consideration translates to a feeling of inclusivity and belongingness in the democratic process, meant to be a tool for all, used by all. Fostering inclusivity in government also provides your government with many new insights and perspectives from otherwise not heard from community members.
Learn more about Promoting Equity in Local Government here.
Should even just localities move forward and begin to adopt a fully online option, communities are granted the opportunity to eliminate the previously necessary paper usage which makes municipalities more green immediately. Additionally, the cut of carbon emissions due to the terminated travel requirement makes a difference in your municipality's carbon footprint. These seemingly small changes work on a bigger scale to move your neighborhood to a greener community.
Check out GovPilot’s Sustainability Guide to learn how to be more environmentally friendly in your city.
Efficiency and Speed with Election Results
The automated counting as e-votes are casted, publishes the verdict live. This rapid dissemination of results not only enhances the efficiency of the electoral process but also provides voters, candidates, and the public with timely access to crucial information, ultimately contributing to a more transparent and responsive democratic system.
There are several costs that quickly add up in the funding of in-person voting. This cost is of no object when it permits the people to play an active role in the democratic process, but an unnecessary one in an online-format. Without the cost of the physical polling station, printed material, and manual labor of municipal employees, government funds are then made available to be instead, invested back into the community.
Key Ways Your Government Can Embrace E-Voting
E-voting should be integrated in your municipality as soon as possible to streamline operations. Here are some of the most impactful ways that your government can begin embracing E-voting now:
1. Assessment and Feasibility Study
In this transition to paperless voting, self-awareness is instrumental. It is expected that the individual municipality would assess their existing voting system and the available technological infrastructure. Ironically, but most importantly, the local community’s willingness and readiness must be evaluated. Engaging in public forums and opening a dialogue about the potential conversion would be key in uncovering the willingness of the community.
Check out GovInspect and how government assessments and inspections can be streamlined through this GovPilot software.
2. Legal and Regulatory Review
Because of the novelty of E-voting, existing laws and regulations about voting may not have the appropriate verbiage to incorporate electronic formatting into your democratic systems right away. Compliance with legal requirements is of utmost importance, so any adjustment to appropriate ordinances, and including E-voting laws, must commence as soon as possible to ensure E-voting complies with local policy.
Check out GovPilot’s guide on the Future of Government: Technology & Public Policy Trends Shaping the Public Sector.
3. Embrace Government Software Solutions
Government software can be embraced at the local level, starting in your very own community. Digital interfaces, such as GovPilot, can transform a municipality for a more efficient and cost effective governance. In the utilization of other government software solutions, constituents foster potential to truly deepen their understanding of a digital government workflow. Further, the streamline of constituent services facilitates better communication between government and citizens, interdepartmentally and in local government offices.
Make E-Voting An Option In Your Municipality Now
It is without doubt that there needs to be a call to action in the decreasing voter turnout we have seen over the last 20 years. E-voting provides a unique solution to the obstacles citizens face in transportation, accessibility, convenience, and inclusivity. It is the responsibility of local government officials to weigh the benefits of E-voting and to consider the employment of software solutions like those offered at GovPilot to improve their Digital governance. The importance of integrating E-voting options in local government elections cannot be exaggerated.
To learn more about how GovPilot can help your municipality, book a free consultation today!
Is E-voting secure?
- While some people are skeptical about the process of electronic voting, it is secure and often produces more reliable election results than traditional voting. Encryptions of voting data and secure submission of votes can be more monitored and implemented with digital or automated voting systems which removes the possibilities of voting fraud or mis-counted votes.
Why Should Local Governments Embrace E-Voting?
- E-voting should be embraced nationwide in local governments due to the convenience, more accurate data yield, secure encryption of election results, quicker election result turn-around, and improved voter turnout numbers. E-voting is simply a digital solution meant to combat the common challenges of traditional paper-based voting systems that streamline election processes and save costs for citizens and local government officials alike.
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