Voting Reform Beyond '08
BY Allison Fine | Wednesday, December 10 2008
My first impression having watched and participated in voting reform efforts for the better part of this decade is the sea change of acceptance and interest on the part of state election officials in using online and technology tools to ease the barriers for registration and voting. It would have been unimaginable just two or three years ago to hear election officials talk about universal voter registration, online voter registration, and, music to my ears, the inevitability of online voting.
There was a really terrific lunchtime panel yesterday moderated by Pam Fessler of NPR with six state election officials and directors: Robin Carnahan, Missouri, Trey Grayson, Kentucky, John Lindback, Oregon, Chris Thomas, Michigan, Brian Newby, Kansas and Warren Slocum of Mateo County, CA.
The most fun was hearing Lindback, who has been the leading administrator for that state's conversation to all mail-in voting, ask, "Why do we keep doing what we have done?" This was in the context of a discussion about voting registration. Lindback fearlessly suggested that we should all have a number assigned to us when we are born as part of our birth certificate that has three purposes only: for use as part of the census, for voting and to certify your death. This idea was met with a surprisingly positively reaction from the crowd of mainly state election officials -- and a cheer from me, of course!
There was a great deal of discussion of the need to unify voting procedures without federalizing them . Meaning getting all of the counties and all of their states to agree on a set method of voting - a Herculean task, but one worth undertaking.
I am moderating a panel later today on online voting with Lori Steel of Everyone Counts. This is an opportunity to shift the conversation from "if" to "how" regarding online voting. Lori's group has successfully implemented online elections in Australia and the UK and for overseas Democrats during the primaries here. We need an open discussion about security, open source code that has broad participation from coders across the country and the world, about the issue of a paper trail and other things -- but it's time to have the conversation. I'll keep you posted!