We are coming up on the final countdown to Election Day and for those states with National seats on the line we have been seeing the never-ending barrage of commercials. It just makes me remember the aspects of our political campaigning and elections that just does not seem to make sense. This is not just about the never ending advertising that seems take over every single commercial, but it is the general process of voting as well. There is one part that people should want to vote and should take the effort to vote. At the same time it would be nice if it was not such a contentious or annoying process. Every year David and I get into a discussion about the election process and all the things that we wish could be different. Here are five things I would like to see for the advancement of elections.
Slowly, but surely we are moving to be able to do more and more things online. I assume the fear is that when things are submitted online that items can be changed or sabotaged. At the same time we do our taxes online and our medical information is moving to be more online, why can’t we figure out a way to do voting online? There would still need to be a way to vote in-person, but it would open up availability to those who might have difficulty leaving the house. Also, might assist with absentee, instead of having to worry about your vote arriving in the mail on time you could do it online. Now obviously there are going to be kinks in the system and our technology is not necessarily sophisticated enough, but this would be such a nice change to the election process.
Alternatives for Paper Ads
This is kind of a weird thought, but hear me out. We receive how much paper advertising for candidates? Leaflets, brochures, etc. That all comes to us in the mail. As someone who tries to be reasonably environmentally friendly I recycle and try and think about the impact. It would be nice if there was a way to almost say, “okay if you are going to send me stuff then send it to this email address.” If you want a more generic way, then to be able to request that you receive pamphlets made from recycled paper. It is not like I really read any of them anyway, so it is just an inundation of more stuff that needs to be recycled. It would be nice if I feel like the paper is a waste that I could have a little more control over.
Opt Out of Advertising
So this option is way out there, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could opt out of advertising. Now this would be tricky because the money paid for advertising is huge and you would have to limit it in some way. At the same time imagine that you have decided who you are going to vote on and have already seen every commercial under the sun; wouldn’t it be nice to be able to flip a switch and somehow tell people that you don’t need to see anymore commercials? Then when you are watching Hulu or regular TV it could somehow know not to show you the commercial. It might even be nice if it would show you a “remember to vote” screen to encourage people to still vote when they are not being bombarded by the other commercials.
Automatic Opt Out After Voting
Continuing along the line of being able to opt out of advertising, and the understanding of how much money they make based on advertising, what if you could automatically be opted out of advertising once you have voted? Somehow, once your name gets checked off of a list it could somehow remove your information from phone calls, paper ads, and other commercials. Now this is obviously tracking a lot of information, which would probably make people uncomfortable, but at the same time how much are people actually noticing how much they are being tracked currently? We have people using our voting records and sending them out to our friends; wouldn’t it be nice if the public record of us voting could work for us as well? It might encourage people to vote early if they could stop receiving calls, mailings, and other advertising.
Better Accessibility Technology
This does not go along with a lot of the other things, but really it feels like our voting mechanics have not caught up with technology. Especially when it comes to assisting people to vote. We do have citizens of this country for whom English is not their first language. Why can’t we make a recording of the ballot that they could listen to and understand what they are voting for? This would even be available for someone who is blind who needs assistance potentially, but might be able to listen to the issue and then vote. This way you could provide some independence to those people and potentially help them understand the issues better. Now some of it is just voting for a name, but a lot of time there are voter initiatives that need to be voted on that are extremely complex. If you have a variety of people doing translations this can cause confusion. You could record and approve the message so you know exactly what everyone gets to hear. There are probably a lot of other issues regarding accessibility that I am not even thinking of, but it is amazing that there is not more we could do.
Part of the reason I wanted to write this is that my state lets you do in-person absentee voting early, it just means that it is counted with the absentee ballots and not the night of. I love it because they are set up basically where I work and can just do it on my way home without having to make a special detour. The problem is once you have voted it is a pain to wade through all the political drama still occurring. It really would be nice if we could improve upon the way we handle elections, but that seems like a distant future to me.