Easing the Burden of Political Participation with Fulcrum

05 November 2012 by Spatial Networks

Our nation, as a democracy, has allowed for one of the best standards of living on the planet. To maintain these high standards, we have to keep busy, busy, busy! So busy that we find it difficult to make time for the very things that have made this nation great, such as upholding our civic duty to vote or our constitutional obligation to participate in the census. Fulcrum could make it so that people could participate from any location.

Polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm. I have class from 9:30-5:00, forty-five minutes away… I am lucky enough that if I were to show up for class 15 minutes late with an “I voted” sticker on my shirt, I’m sure my professor would understand. The extra hour of sleep from Daylight Savings Time is barely enough to motivate me to wake up earlier on a weekday. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were another way?

The Census Bureau</a> is working on making public participation easier (and less expensive). The 2013 American Community Survey is going to be available online, but that’s an annual form delivered only to a sample size of 2.5% of American households. The most recent decennial census questionnaire, in 2010, cost: $13 billion. The 28% non-respondants made it so 1.4 million census workers had to visit door-to-door. These workers were supposed to be outfitted with handheld computers but due to technical malfunctions, they had to be replaced with good ol’ fashioned pencils and paper (worth $3 billion). The effort to keep up with a culture of automation is appreciated, but with over half of Americans already in ownership of smartphones, the 2020 census could utilize the tech their workers will likely already own to do the work.

Estonia was the first nation to vote via cell phone in 2011. Voters who wanted to participate were assigned an identification chip for their cell phones. To prevent intimidation tactics, voters were allowed to vote as many times as they wanted to and only the most recent vote was counted. Finland and Sweden are apparently also looking to implement something similar.

Many surveys have concluded that the top reasons for low voter turnout in the U.S. are “Lack of interest” and “Couldn’t make it (too busy/sick)”. While mobile data collection software, like Fulcrum, may not be able to combat general apathy (or maybe it can!), it could definitely make it easier for the busy, sick, immobile or couch-locked citizen to vote. Not spending the additional cash for specially designed polling machines or census handheld computers in favor of mobile phones/tablets would only sweeten the deal.

Do you think utilizing Fulcrum could encourage voter turnout? Do you think Fulcrum would be better for census respondents or census workers? Leave a reply!

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