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Engaging Voters and Securing Voting Systems Nationwide

Debates over effective voting policies have recently come into the spotlight, but it's been an issue for many elections now. America has a notorious history of low voter turnout, and with Covid-19 altering how and when Americans will be voting, the threat to democracy is ever-present. Engaging voters typically neglected and providing alternative voting methods can help combat the uncertainty.

challenge

2 shares

Engaging Voters and Securing Voting Systems Nationwide

Debates over effective voting policies have recently come into the spotlight, but it's been an issue for many elections now. America has a notorious history of low voter turnout, and with Covid-19 altering how and when Americans will be voting, the threat to democracy is ever-present. Engaging voters typically neglected and providing alternative voting methods can help combat the uncertainty.
326M
people impacted
$191B
potential funding
the problem
Nature and Context

Almost 92 million eligible Americans did not vote in the 2016 presidential elections. In the 2014 midterm elections, an estimated 143 million eligible Americans failed to vote, marking the lowest voter participation in 72 years. For the nation’s democracy to function properly and for government to provide fair representation, all eligible Americans must have the opportunity to vote (CAP).

Symptoms and Causes

Involvement by age group shows disparities

The United States has one of the lowest rates of youth voter turnout in the world. The gap between 18- to 29-year-olds and those over 60, a common measuring stick, is more than twice as large here than it is in comparable democracies, like Canada and Germany. This has serious implications for the country, as politicians get into a vicious circle of pursuing policies that favor older voters, and leave young ones out of the system, alienating them further. Finding ways to engage young voters and getting them registered to vote is important as the challenges our country face grow more demanding (The Conversation).

There is a registration barrier

Sweden and Germany automatically register eligible citizens onto their voting rolls. The United Kingdom and Australia actively promote voter registration. But in the United States, signing up to vote is a cumbersome process and might represent the biggest hurdle to voter participation. In parts of America, it's getting worse.

Since 2010, 22 states have passed laws requiring photo IDs or curtailing early voting, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonprofit public policy institute at New York University Law School that promotes democracy and justice. (Some of the most controversial laws have been challenged in lawsuits or struck down by courts.) (Business Insider)

This year the threat is greater than ever thanks to Covid

This year, it is the very act of voting at a polling location that is impractical and, in fact, dangerous. In the worst-case scenario—if preventive and containment measures are in effect throughout the fall—November’s voting procedure must provide for “social distancing,” which is impossible at a polling place. Many voting rights advocates have long pushed for “convenience voting” as a way to increase participation and broaden the franchise (ABA).

Voter suppression of marginalized groups

A series of developments, including a 2013 Supreme Court decision truncating the 1965 Voting Rights Act, have erected new voting hurdles in recent years that disproportionately affect African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

In 2016, 14 states had new voting restrictions in place before the presidential election that delivered President Donald Trump to power. They included requirements of proof of citizenship and purges of inactive voters on voter rolls. (In June, a federal judge struck down a Kansas law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.) (Business Insider)

A huge portion of the population is disenfranchised

When discussing policies for increasing voter participation, it is necessary to acknowledge the more than 6 million American citizens barred from exercising their fundamental right to vote because of ex-offender disenfranchisement laws (CAP). Many states have made strides to restore the vote to felons done serving their sentence, and have instituted registration assistance as part of rehabilitation programs, but the country still leaves many citizens without a vote.

the impact
Negative Effects

Claims over voting fraud leave the general public uncertain about security

Weeks before the first votes of the 2020 presidential election, Americans report a high level of concern about how secure that election will be and worry about the perils of disinformation, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll.

Forty-one percent of those surveyed said they believed the U.S. is not very prepared or not prepared at all to keep November's election safe and secure. Although there is no evidence that any votes were changed by a foreign power in 2016 or 2018, almost 4 in 10 Americans surveyed said they believe it is likely another country will tamper with the votes cast in 2020 in order to change the result(NPR).

Additionally recent controversy over voting by mail practices have left many Americans not used to the process less than sure about transitioning to a vote by mail system.

Election security and turnout face an onslaught of unique challenges this year

Conversations with election specialists and security officials, plus analysis of recent government reports, make clear that there are eight distinct but connected challenges. At the technical end are the uncertain new voting technologies and processes put in place for the pandemic; on the geopolitical end, we face foreign adversaries energized by their success sowing confusion in 2016. And at the center is the unprecedented human factor: The dislocations and risks associated with voting in an uncontrolled viral outbreak (Politico).

Economic Impact

Economic health and election season are inextricably connected

There's a well-established body of research plotting out exactly how, and how much, the economy affects presidential elections. Different analyses have pointed to people's incomes, job growth and GDP growth as being correlated to presidential election outcomes — the worse the economy, the worse a sitting president (or the sitting president's party) performs.

This year, the economy has rapidly deteriorated. The economy has gone into recession, unemployment is at 11.1%, and record numbers of new COVID-19 cases could substantially boost unemployment yet again.

The bottom line is that come November, the economy could be a strong headwind for the incumbent president. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that unemployment will still be above 10% around election time (NPR).

Success Metrics
  • Increased candidate accountability

  • Nationwide voting by mail or alternative voting options

  • Improved security measures for the election against threats domestic and abroad

  • Increased voter turnout in typically under represented age groups and races

who benefits from solving this problem
Organization Types
  • Local, state, and federal government bodies

  • All elected government agencies

  • The American justice system

Stakeholders
  • All American Citizens

  • Global partners of The USA

  • Politicians

  • Lawyers and judges

  • Campaign managers

  • Public Servants

financial insights
Current Funding

TurboVote, a one-stop shop for an individual's voting needs. TurboVote makes sure voters always know when elections are happening, and have the information they need to vote with confidence. Sign up to receive election reminders, get registered to vote, & apply for your absentee ballot.

BallotReady aggregates content from candidates’ websites, social media, press, endorsers and board of elections for comprehensive, nonpartisan information about candidates and referendum. Everything is linked back to its source, so voters can verify information. We make every effort to confirm details with the candidates themselves, allowing them to share even more information.

Code for America believes government must work for the people, and by the people, in the digital age, starting with the people who need it most. We build digital services that enhance government capabilities, and we help others do the same across all levels of government. Our goal: a 21st-century government that effectively and equitably serves all Americans.

Potential Solution Funding
ideas
Ideas Description

Eight Ways Technology Could Revolutionize The Voting Process (Forbes):

1. Educating And Motivating Voters

With big data and artificial intelligence technologies going mainstream, the election process is also being impacted. New tech has far better memory than humans, and with AI it’s getting on par with human imagination! 

2. Retiring Paper-Based Voting

We need a modern system for people that reflects how we do everything else in our life — through a mobile device or an online voting system, rather than through a paper-based system. It could mean faster, more accurate results.

3. Creating A Customer-Style User Experience

Voter suppression is a heated debate. At the moment, human error can account for many inconsistencies that can prevent someone from voting on time. Technology will be able to improve this process as the user experience and customer journey are more readily applied to this aspect of our lives — the way it is in the commercial realm — to make voting painless and simple and encourage more people to vote.

4. Introducing Blockchain For Efficiency

There’s been a lot of debate on voting and blockchain. While it may not be the silver bullet to solve all issues with the voting process, it has a lot of potential to restore trust and improve efficiency. It’s already begun in places like West Virginia, where it was used in the midterms by residents stationed out of the country.

5. Improving Security And Reliability

Voter information has been leaked. Polling machines have bugs. Foreign entities have attempted hacking. All of these things lead to distrust in the voting systems and the reliability of elections. More will be done in the tech industry to make sure that these systems are less vulnerable. The challenge will be large, though, because there is no federal standard.

6. Allowing Voters To Cast Ballots From Home

Technology has a responsibility to improve the Get Out the Vote (GOTV) effort. Startups and businesses are identifying their roles in creating social change.

7. Creating Traceable Voting

Systems for voting, specifically mobile applications, must be built to create an equivalence between online identity and physical voter management. The act of voting should be seamless, without a wait and secure. Tabulation must be traceable from the individual to the device from which the vote came as to afford clear registration, tabulation, recount and analysis.

8. Developing Politician Performance Tracking

Our biggest problem with voting is the lack of participation, not the process itself. Educating the population on the impact of the current policy is one way to encourage people to vote for a change. Too many promises go unfulfilled, and our current politicians are not held accountable. 

Ideas Value Proposition
Ideas Sustainability
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