Can Tech Actually Help Get out the Vote?
By Full Circle Fund Rising Leader – Aiasha Khalid
How’s The News treating you today? If you are getting exhausted of the goings on and the barrage of information and headlines, good news, the midterms are coming! Regardless of your politics, these are clearly an important moment in American electoral history. After two long years, you finally have the chance to raise your voice. Much of our media would have you believe these elections will change everything. But will they?
America is in a voting slump. In 2014, only 36% of the eligible voter population cast a ballot (the lowest turnout in 70 years), and in the 2012 election only 26% of eligible young people actually voted. 74% didn’t. So what’s holding us back from going to the polls? And, since we are Bay Area-folk, where does technology help? Can it help limit some of the likely (and unfortunately increasingly common) shenanigans aimed at stopping people from expressing their electoral rights? Can technology increase voter turnout and at least help ensure, as George Bernard Shaw put it, that our democracy will ‘ensure we shall be governed no better than we deserve’?
If you believe that all Americans should have equal access at the ballot box, then you should care about increasing access to voting and pushing the boundaries of connectivity. Here in the Bay Area, our own backyard, there are some great groups mobilizing the edge. From Votervox that pairs volunteer translators with voters who needs help voting in their language to VoterCircle, a friend to friend outreach platform that lets anyone invite their friends to support causes they care about, we’re seeing an uptake in creative organizations plugging the gaps and bringing marginalized groups into the conversation, so their voices can be heard.
But there’s still a long way to go. People of color, immigrants, people living with disabilities, people living in rural and remote areas, and those without identification all still struggle to access their vote. Combine that with the longstanding challenges of voter registration, lack of education on campaign issues, and voter apathy and burnout (which isn’t surprising given our scary headlines), it looks like the problem of kickstarting our democracy isn’t going away any time soon. That’s where you come in.
You can leverage your networks, skills, and passion to make a difference. From hosting local convenings and information-sharing, to creating and pushing out apps that push for voting access across languages and cultures, to pushing for open data portals and greater transparency with local government budgets, to getting out into the community to learn more about these barriers, there are so many ways to get involved locally. Right now, there is a ton of funding, press, and idealism when it comes to civic tech at scale but that’s just the runway. If we, the people, don’t support and push for change, then all of the effort from the public and private sectors won’t take off.
To learn more about how you, with your individual power, can become an ambassador for democracy, come to the Full Circle Fund CivicTech 2018: Technology, the Midterms and Your Vote community convening on April 12th. You’ll hear from practitioners, experts, and funders all sharing their ideas on civic tech that boosts access to democracy in fresh ways, and leave with concrete next steps, just in time for the midterms.