US elections will be defined by technological novelties

The United States will hold their Presidential election next November. With little more than a month to go to these elections, we can highlight two new technological novelties: the growing influence of social network in political participation, and how Internet processes make it easier for voters to connect with the electoral system.

The first case is related to a Facebook experiment that took place during the 2010 elections. An message regarding the elections was sent to a part of the site’s users, which generated a series of interactions and raised interest on the election, having a positive effect on turnout.

Due to these results, the social network with the most users on the planet, announced that together with Instagram (a photo- and video-sharing social network) they would launch a new feature: a registration button to their News Feed. This would let users now who in their circle of friends voted, get information on the elections and view results.

Facebook states that in 2010 their message reminding users that it was election day, with vital information on the process, encouraged 340 thousand people to go to the polls.

The second novelty is that 21 states in the country, that is to say almost half of the United States, have tools that allow citizens to register online to vote.

The Elections Performance Index published by The Pew Charitable Trusts shows that voters in states like Georgia, New York and California have the possibility to go online to update their voting info or register to vote remotely; two states, Ohio and Michigan, only offer online updates, and 26 states simply do not offer this kind of support.

An important finding of the document is that the use of this technology has increased: in 2012 only 13 states allowed the online registration of voters.

This organization considers that remote methods not only save time and money when compared to in-person, paper based processes, but also engage voters by making their registration easier.

Technology is not only an important tool to guarantee transparent elections where every stage is automated (voter identification, voting, counting, tallying and results transmission), but has also become a platform to encourage voter participation.

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