When was the last time you hailed a cab? Visited your banker? Found a date at a bar? Searched the shelves of a bookstore?
Almost every part of our lives has migrated online in some way. From getting a ride, to banking, to dating, to buying books, there are few activities still conducted entirely offline. That is, unless we’re talking about voting.
Voting in the United States, and almost every other country for that matter, is primarily done offline – in person and at a polling place, or sometimes by sending mail through the U.S. Postal Service. Any wonder that voter turnout in our presidential election last year was only 55 percent – the lowest rate since 1996?
In an era when many things can be done via a smartphone, it’s time we found a way to let us vote from the comfort of our homes, while we commute to work, or while we stand in line for lunch.
The answer may lie in a small Baltic nation with a population smaller than Hawaii.
Estonia has already been utilizing online voting for a decade. In that country’s last election, nearly one-third of Estonian citizens took advantage of this convenience and cast their ballots online.
The obvious question that arises about online voting is whether it is safe from tampering. If our country adopted this system, could some hacker or group of hackers override the wishes of American voters and change the outcome of the election for president and for other offices?
Estonia has taken steps to combat this legitimate concern. In the e-voting process there, voters use their government-issued ID and can cast their ballot as many times as they like, with only the last vote actually getting counted.
Furthermore, the process involves a cross-device verification method, meaning that a hacker or virus would need to access both the voter’s computer and mobile phone. Voters are also able to connect their phones to the electoral servers and verify how their vote was recorded.
These and other security measures have ensured that online elections remain fair and that voters remain anonymous in Estonia.
While you might think that online votes in Estonia come mostly from millennials who represent the youngest voters in the country, data from the e-voting system proved that nearly half of voters are 45 and over.
In our digital age, it’s not just the young, digital-natives who crave convenience – we have all grown accustomed to moving away from static, unengaging experiences that cut into our leisure time. When we want something, we want it to reach us wherever we are, not vice versa.
Plus, it’s not just convenience we crave. Participation in online polls shows that we genuinely love voting online. Storytelling platform Playbuzz, which provides interactive authoring tools like polls to publishers, reports that over 75 percent of outlets’ stories published in June via the platform incorporated a poll. Playbuzz also notes that polls are one of the most popular tools used by editorial teams worldwide.
Granted, interacting online with editorial content is more casual than voting, but this does show us that when a publisher offers us the opportunity to interact and share our opinion, we jump at the chance. Interacting online is the new normal in our society. So why should voting in elections for government officials be any different?
Not to mention, secure online voting means eliminating several problems that accompany in-person voting, such as limited hours at polling places, long lines and missing part of a workday.
Different generations have different habits of engagement. If governments want to encourage all of their citizens to vote, then it’s time we modernize the voting process. If we apply Estonia’s logic and process of online polls to elections worldwide, we could ensure a high voter turnout rate and make democracy more easily accessible.
Forcing all groups to conform to an outdated process simply no longer aligns with society’s daily habits. When governments invest resources in secure, virtual elections, more people will vote and results will better represent the majority of the population.