Election 2020

In 2020, The Election Will Teach Us It’s Time For Mobile Voting

And the plentiful of reasons to do so.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

The election is a few weeks away and the registered voter roll is 160+ million strong and what seems to be growing every day. Voters nationwide are either casting ballots by mail or going to the polls over the next few weeks, if not on Election Day. In 2020, this populous voting swell triggers essential questions about how we participate in our democracy.

For instance, why is voting so labor and capital intensive in the digital age? Why can’t we use mobile devices and desktop technologies to handle what would seem to be a somewhat simple product and process to get out the vote? I wrote this article using Google Docs, a cloud-based application that can be shared and accessed securely over any device. If I used my iPhone XR, why can’t I vote with it too?

According to the Pew Research Center, 96% of Americans own mobile phones and can do just about anything with it shy of having a baby. They can wire money, order a pizza, and even find their car in a parking lot. The bottom line is if we used mobile devices to vote for American Idol, we could use them to pick a President too.

The Vision

To develop a website, app, or other technology is an endeavor that requires trust more than anything. Not many Americans would leave the job up to biased 2 trillion dollar corporations like Apple in this polarized environment. Twitter won’t cut it. Facebook is out. Google, forget it. And Amazon? “Alexa, vote for Biden.” That’s fair, but far down the road. If only Dr. Fauci were a programmer.

​Why is this so complex? All you need is a highly transparent and honest broker to write an app named Voterly, which is nothing more than an online questionnaire. For each race, voters log into a dedicated web address for presidential and other down-ballot elections. Next, they verify their address, party affiliation, and they’re not a robot — a frustrating process of selecting squares that don’t have stoplights, stairways, sidewalks, etc. No one said this was perfect.

After verifications are complete, voters select their candidate(s) and then click SELECT. A review page comes next and at the bottom is a “vote” button designed in red, white, and blue with stars and stripes. If there are any ballot questions, you answer those, and boom, voters make their choice. See. Not so hard. Even a survey monkey can do it.

What’s Going On Back There Anyhow?

Photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

To trust corporations is merely the filet in this T-bone of an issue when nearly 3 in 5 Americans don’t have trust in the electoral system. Aside from gerrymandering politicians, foreign actors like the Russians, Iranians, and Chinese look to take significant cyber shit into voting machines hoping to muck up our election results and cause chaos across the country. And that is, indeed, a problem.

“If you’re doing phone voting or Internet voting, it’s pretty much garbage in, garbage out. You don’t know what you’re getting in or what’s coming out the other side,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall in an interview with NPR. The chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology continues, “This is why we often demand a paper record — a software-independent, indelible record that can be recounted later. It can’t be hacked.”

Lorenzo has a point. Paper provides an accurate count and cannot be trifled with certainly when it comes to voting. It can be folded, ripped, rerouted, shredded, mixed, jammed, crumpled, tossed, stained, scribbled on, shuffled, stolen, burned, and cut-but never hacked.

Not so hard. Even a survey monkey can do it.

I guess that nullifies my argument, right? Please, what’s next? Chads never hang?

Paper is so yesterday. The promise of a vote-by-phone program will set a precedent for all future elections, certainly when registered voters turn out in droves. It would’ve helped this year, for sure.

In 2016, Harris County, TX, had a record 68,000 votes on the first day of early voting. In 2020, the old record was shattered by almost double with 128,000 ballots cast at 112 polling centers. For the first time, voters could use drive-thru voting as if you could order a double-ballot with cheese. (if you’re Republican, no cheese)

Wait For It

Photo by Hennie Stander on Unsplash

With more Americans participating in our democracy, this means wait times are longer than ever before. (NOTE: “wait times” link is Harris County data)

In Gwinnett County, Georgia, voters were at the polls by 4 a.m. By the afternoon, wait times were 8 hours.

Now I don’t know about you, but that is a long time just to fill in a few ovals. I know where not talking about any old ovals. We’re talking about the Oval Office. But for 8 hours?

Look, what American has 8 hours to stand around mocking telephone poles. You shouldn’t have to choose between going to the polls and going to work, food bank, or anywhere else. Granted, standing around in a line remains a perfect time to text with friends, read only op-eds you agree with, and negotiate the back rent. However, Texas is a hot place to be on your feet for so long. The scorch is only bearable if you vote by phone with a Starbucks mocha latte while seated in the restroom.

And long lines have other issues besides the wait. Now, in the Trump era, red-state Democrats might find themselves face-to-face with white supremacists “standing back and standing by”. These militias armed with more than an ideology will use any means necessary to deter voters with intimidating tactics so that President Trump can bend the electorate’s will.

The elephants in the room on this issue, conservative Republicans, take direction from a president who treats The Constitution like it’s a card from your realtor because they fear the progressive movement. Conservatives are running scared that the Bernie Sander’s and AOC’s of the world will give all Americans free healthcare, free college education, and government-funded burner phones. So now they’re getting crafty.

For example, in the blue state of California, Republicans tried to trick early voters with fake “official” ballot boxes. The only thing official about them is their “fakenesss”.

Anyhow, the courts quickly said no to the Tom Foolery, and the Republicans pushed back. But who cares? If the tech was available, voters could simply tap an app and select their candidate. No more dealing with the opponent’s ballot bullshit and that’s an official statement.

Get The Band Together

The marvels of a 5G network will expand and expound innovations, the likes you’ve never seen. With 5G, speeds are 100 times faster. You will download a two-hour movie in ten seconds, own driverless cars, and block spam calls from Utah. So aren’t 5G networks poised to deliver voting capabilities to the disenfranchised, including minorities, the handicapped, military, and rural populations?

Theoretically, the answer is yes. However, the 5G network isn’t perfect. According to a CNN report, 5G currently comes in three flavors: a low bandwidth, which is about 20% faster than 4G. High-band, which is problematic because signals this fast, don’t travel well and struggle to move through hard surfaces. And then there’s a mid-band network that balances speed and coverage.

Regardless, the question is, how long will it take to complete the network, so it’s effective and efficient countrywide? By 2025, only half of the mobile connections will be 5G while the rest use 4G or even 3G. By 2040, let’s hope wild fires don’t destroy the thing. And by 2050, you’ll probably be calling from Mars.

That’s why younger voters should take up this issue. They may not know where to buy stamps, but they do understand the smartphone will continue to change the online and virtual experience. And when it comes to mobile voting, it’ll help so many more Americans in rural areas, Americans in the military, Americans who are handicapped, Americans who are blind, and others. As I said, 96% of Americans own a phone. All we need to do is dial it in just like we did American Idol.

For more articles by Anthony C. Fireman, click here.

Published in The Boston Globe Magazine; Trying to figure it all out by expressing ideas, fears, hopes, and dreams; I have a dog, a very influential dog. Very.

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