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It's time for voting to go digital

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It's undeniable that social media played a part in the record-breaking voter turnout for the midterm election. Of course, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, and its effect of waking many Americans up to the reality of our country’s precarious future, likely inspired many to vote in and of itself. But young voters especially were also inundated with and incentivized by Snapchat and Instagram filters, and celebrities retweeting and responding to people who posted pictures of their "I Voted" stickers on Twitter. Young people were expected to show up, and they did — then they posted about it on social media.

But while social media is helping to encourage young people to vote in record numbers, the actual process of voting is exceptionally digitally inept. Voting needs to go digital.

First and foremost, the process of voting in person at a polling place is not only inconvenient for Americans, but unaffordable and otherwise detrimental to many. In Georgia, for example, residents of many districts had to wait in lines an average of three hours to vote. For those who work during regular work hours, the only way many can vote is if there's no, or a minimal, line when they get there. If the polling place is too far from a citizen’s workplace, they won’t have any time at all. Those who aren't able to stand for long periods of time could jeopardize their own health to perform their civic duty, and wage workers may not be able to afford to vote at all given the fact that election day is not a holiday in this country.

Sadly, these are roadblocks voters face if they haven’t been caught up in the voter suppression efforts rampant in our country before election day — efforts that largely target the most marginalized Americans. In a number of states, including North Carolina, strict voter ID laws requiring identification of residential addresses kept indigenous people who use P.O. boxes from being able to vote. Early voting was also suppressed in North Carolina in an apparent attempt to keep Black people from voting. Florida restored voting rights to over a million formerly incarcerated people thanks those who voted for that legislation in the midterm elections, but those millions still were unable to vote that day. If all American citizens are supposedly qualified to vote when they’re 18 years old, there’s no reason for every citizen not to be automatically registered when they turn 18. Although it has been slowly incorporated into several state laws, automatic voter registration should be digital and universal at this point.

There were also many roadblocks with America’s electronic voting machines themselves. This past election, we saw voting machines experience technical difficulties, which wouldn’t happen if citizens could cast their votes online. Some voters claim that their registrations weren’t processed in time for the election, a problem state officials attributed to their own struggles to keep up with surges in paperwork. These ballots would especially increase voting rates among young people whose voices are most needed when it comes to voting for people and policies that so greatly contribute to deciding their futures. We have the technology to make this process easier for Americans to engage in, so why don't we?

While digital voting isn't a new idea,  it continues to have its share of naysayers. Even with advances in technology, many distrust voting from computers out of fear that they could be hacked. But blockchain technology is being developed to battle these security issues, and we’ve already seen this process work in other countries. In Estonia, citizens download an application on their computer through which they can vote at home. Since this change was enacted over 10 years ago, voter turnout has increased over 30 percent, especially among young people.

Digital voting is a change that we can and need to enact. If America is a true democracy, hearing everybody's voice must be our top priority. There is no reason for the laws of our country to not evolve with the times. If our country really wants its people to be accurately and fairly represented, it needs to help the people participate in the election process. The tide of voices in favor of this change is rising, but it's still going to need a bigger push.



More articles by Category: Politics
More articles by Tag: Civil rights, Elections, Law, Social media
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Anna Khan
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