Digitalize the Vote

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It’s about time the United States began to move elections online. The old process of manually registering to vote and traveling to a voting center is outdated. To begin to modernize the process, New York lawmakers introduced the Voter Empowerment Act of New York on June 7.

According to Mashable, the Voter Empowerment Act digitalizes the registration process to reduce errors caused by handwriting and typing that often excludes eligible citizens.

Senator Michael Gianaris and Assembly member Brian Kavanagh claim that the single biggest barrier to voting is our antiquated registration system and believe that the bill would improve New York’s participation.

In addition, this bill would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register before their 18th birthdays. This would motivate younger voters to make it to the polls. Historically, young voters have been less likely to vote.

In college, I had a number of friends who did not vote, because the process was inconvenient and many thought that it would not make a difference. I believe that modernizing system will substantially increase participation.

Registering, changing addresses and changing parties are often complex tasks that continue to burden the old system. If people are apathetic about the election, they are unlikely to make the effort to update their voting information.

“As election season approaches, government bureaucracy continues to impede too many people from voting,” Senator Gianaris said in a report. “Our proposal would remove these obstacles and maximize voter turnout while saving the state and its counties hundreds of thousands of dollars per election, thus preventing disenfranchisement and enabling better record keeping.”

Still, many people are hesitant about trying to run the electoral system online, arguing that automating the process could leave way for hackers and viruses.

“My position hasn’t changed over the years,” said Avi Rubin, a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University, specializing in computer security in this interview. “Online voting is a very unsafe idea and a very bad idea and something I think no technological breakthrough can ever change.”

Enlisting Internet security experts and spending the time to safely allow voter registration and voting online still would be a worthy goal.  With teenagers and young adults so naturally connected on the Internet, it seems that the Voter Empowerment Act would be a natural first step toward the inevitable reality of today’s younger voters being in the majority. Passing this bill in one state will be a catalyst toward moving the entire election process online. Maybe one day we won’t have to drive to the polls, and simply vote from our laptops.

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