During today’s elections, Oregon is launching a pilot program which allows voters to cast their ballot on an iPad. The program is designed to allow elderly or disabled people vote on an easy-to-read, easy-to-use app. The app then prints out a paper ballot, which is then mailed to the proper office. An elections board representative monitors the process to ensure fairness.
If successful, the program could bring us closer to an age of digital voting, where casting your ballot from the convenience of your home is the norm. It would drastically improve our voter participation rate if we didn’t have to get to the local high school gymnasium for every election. Voter error would also decrease with easy-to-read touchscreens displaying candidate choices.
If the software provided a printable “I Voted” sticker and a smile from an elderly retiree pollworker after each ballot is cast, almost none of that Election Day magic would be lost.
That life is still a far way off.
The Oregon program doesn’t send in a user’s vote directly from the software, it merely provides a printout which then can be mailed in. It’s useful software in Oregon with its mail-in ballot, but won’t work in a state like New York where no ballots (except absentee) are sent by mail. Security would need to be ensured, and voters would have to be convinced their choices were successfully counted.
We’re making progress toward the goal of voting digitally from home, but evolution in electoral systems is perhaps even more gradual than in biology. For now, Oregon’s experiment, if successful, shows a smart use of technology in helping disabled citizens exercise their right and their responsibility to vote.