Voting enters the 21st century (thank you technology!)

Fri, 2015-08-14 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

Long lines, the possibility of being turned away at a polling station, old equipment and other problems continue to plague the voting process around the world. But it doesn't have to be that way. One company is working to make voting simpler, more convenient, more secure and  more transparent.

Scytl, a company specializing in secure electronic voting and a Microsoft partner, has come up with a solution to speed up voter check-in and verification (which is where many of the hang-ups occur) and enable election officials to better manage the voting process. The Scytl ePollBook is built on the Microsoft Dynamics CRM and the Microsoft SQL Server.

What is it and what does it do?
The ePollBook integrates information from motor vehicles departments, health and human services and law enforcement databases in one place so poll workers have ready access to the information they need to verify voter eligibility. And those workers can use Windows tablets to verify the information in seconds, rather than dig through printed lists. For voters who turn up at the wrong polling station, workers can direct them to the correct location and give them a map to help them get there.

The Scytl system also gives elections officials a dashboard they can use to follow the performance of each polling station and, if an issue arises, take care of it before it becomes a serious problem. It also gives them post-election reports on voter turnout and the best voting times at each station – which they can use to ensure future elections run smoothly.

Other new developments in voting…

  • The James L. Knight Foundation recently awarded a total of $3.2 million to 22 projects designed to give voters better news and information about issues and candidates, and to encourage them to vote through the foundation's Knight News Challenge.
  • A new program in Travis County, Texas is encouraging millennials to register and vote by giving them the option of registering via text message. The app also provides information on the closest voting location and a reminder to vote on Election Day.
  • Los Angeles County enlisted the services of design company IDEO to create a touchscreen set up that voters accustomed to tapping and scrolling would be comfortable with. According to Bloomberg, the system is being followed by election administrators across the country.
  • The Albany Visualization and Informatics Lab at the University at Albany in New York created a smartphone app to encourage more voter participation. Registered voters can search their local, state and federal representatives, look at their voting history and get upcoming election information.

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Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.

Related resources:
How voting, women and corruption figure in the smart city standard
See voting-related apps in the Smart Cities Apps Gallery (membership required; join now for free)