An election season can be a time of uncertainty for all involved — voters, candidates and states. Voters are faced with the decision of choosing candidates who align with their values, while candidates clamor to present themselves in the best light. States are faced with the most daunting task: They must ensure that the entire process is organized fairly so that votes are effectively collected and counted.
Here are six technologies that have changed state elections:
The Wisconsin Election Data Collection System (WEDCS)
Wisconsin has the most local election offices (LEOs) in the nation: 1,851. The state’s Government Accountability Board (GAB) oversees elections. In 2008, the GAB created the WEDCS to ease the data collection process. For the first time, election forms were made available online, so data didn’t have to be mailed or faxed to the GAB. Thanks to the WEDCS, the data from each of the state’s election jurisdictions is now connected with Madison, the state’s capital.
The Voting Information Project (VIP)
The Voting Information Project (VIP) takes state election information, such as polling-place locations, ballot content, and registration information, translates it into an open programming format and then organizes it into application programming interfaces (APIs). VIP was used by 20 states in the 2010 election cycle. These states included California, Florida, Illinois and Virginia.
ES&S and Scytl’s BALLOTsafe Online Ballot Delivery and Marking System
BALLOTsafe is a strategic alliance between Scytl and Election Systems & Software (ES&S). The system was deployed earlier this year in Mississippi for the state’s primary elections. It allowed voters to mark ballots using computers, iPads, and tablets and then print the ballots and mail them to local election offices.
Even the most technologically challenged candidates have had to incorporate some form of social media into their campaigns in order to reach a wider voter demographic. Needless to say, social media’s influence on elections will only increase over time.
The advent of television has provided voters with a direct link to Washington. Conversely, the airing of campaign spots, debates and congressional hearings has introduced political candidates to a wider spectrum of voters. Richard Nixon’s 1952 television address is a prime example of a candidate’s use of television to influence the public. Although Nixon was not yet running for president, his address was an attempt to secure his spot as the vice presidential running mate on the Republican ticket after he was accused of misusing campaign funds. During his address, Nixon sat next to his wife and told a story about his dog Checkers, which had been given to his children by a supporter. Later that year, Eisenhower won the presidential election. Television’s influence on elections proves that seeing really is believing.
Electronic voting, or e-voting, has been present since the first appearance of the punched-card system in 1960. All current e-voting machines, or direct recording electronic (DRE) system work similarly. Votes are recorded once voters use an input device to mark their ballots. Today, in addition to on-site electronic voting, remote e-voting enables people to vote without leaving their homes.
How do you think technology will continue to affect state elections?