After many months of listening to campaign speeches, analyzing political debates and enduring campaign ads, the time for the general election is nearly upon us. Whether you've already chosen a candidate or remain undecided, state and local election workers have been toiling behind the scenes to ensure citizens can cast their ballots on Nov. 6.
Technology is playing a growing role in the democratic process by streamlining voter registration, maintaining order at the polls and preserving ballot integrity. Whether it's allowing expatriates and service members overseas to download their ballots and fax or mail them, or having people use tablet computers to cast their votes, it's clear that the way we vote is changing.
In Iowa, for example, state law allows same-day voter registration. To expedite that, Cerro Gordo County developed precinct management software to check in and validate voters. The solution, which is now used by 57 of Iowa's 99 counties, includes notebook computers and label printers placed at each polling place.
Before each election, each county downloads data from the state, such as voter registration information, street addresses, absentee requests and a list of felons. Each county then uploads that data to the central Precinct Atlas database at Cerro Gordo County's data center. "The technology allows us to apply election law in a more modern way. We can verify voter information and process them much faster," says Scott Tepner, MIS director for the county.
Cerro Gordo County plans to improve the software by developing a web interface so it can run on tablets. In the future, precincts will be able to use the tablets to perform curbside check-in for senior citizens and disabled people.
The state of Oregon, meanwhile, has already tapped tablets to allow people with disabilities to vote. Voters with impaired vision can use their fingers to enlarge the size of the ballot on the tablet screen or click to have it read aloud to them. Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown says, "Our mission is to be innovative and do what we can to deliver better results to our citizens — and this technology meets that perfectly."
Click here to learn about more innovative uses of technology being used during the elections.