Why don’t more people vote? Only about 36 percent of the voting population turned out for the 2014 midterm elections, the lowest turnout election since 1942, according to stats from the United States Election Project. That’s a big problem and a group of experts in technology, journalism, civics and elections met at the Belo Center for New Media at the University of Texas at Austin campus last week to discuss how to get more people civically engaged. They participated in an invitation-only daylong conference hosted by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life focused on increasing civic engagement before, during and after elections. The conference featured speakers from Google, Microsoft, Code for America, Rock the Vote, Vox Media, Texas Tribune, the clerk of Travis County and many more.
Lots of information and tools to encourage voters already exist online. Tammy Patrick, senior advisor with the Presidential Commission on Election Reform, a bipartisan policy center, produced a report with recommendations to increase voter turnout at SupporttheVoter.gov. Patrick participated in a panel on how can election officials and nonprofits better inform and engage the public.
Another panelist, Ashley Spillane, president of Rock the Vote, is often asked “Why can’t I vote on my phone?” Rock the Vote, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, works to encourage young people to register to vote and vote. People can file their taxes securely online and they think they should be able to cast their ballot that way too, Spillane said.
Today, the technology and security are still not up to par on the Internet to create systems in the United States that allow people to vote online, according to VerifiedVoting.org.