United States President, Barack Obama, has revealed in a recent interview with tech business magazine ‘Fast Company’ that he believes online voting should ‘absolutely’ be a priority.
In the context of using technology to enable better services for the public, the 44th President said that he wants technology to ‘help shape policy’ in order to solve some of the challenges facing the country. Ultimately, he states, Governments should be thinking about how technology can ‘enhance the experience of democracy.’
As with much of the debate surrounding online voting, Obama points to the future and the potential that the reform could have on the youth of today:
“I look at my daughters, who are, as every teenage kid is today, completely fluent in technology and social media. They might not go to a town hall meeting physically, the way their grandmother might have around some issue, and sit through a two-hour debate. Because they’re just used to things moving faster. But we can imagine creating a corollary process for them that is consistent with how they interact generally. We can think of apps that promote engagement and the power of people.”
He foresees the private sector having a role to play in developing the technology for online voting and believes that online voting is ‘something that all of us in every level of public life should be thinking about’ and that the goal should be to ‘make “we the people” mean something in a 21st century context.’
Across the Atlantic, here in the UK, demand for online voting has been growing with a recent poll by WebRoots Democracy and YouGov finding that 56% of the public want an online voting option implemented in the upcoming referendum on EU membership. A separate poll in the capital found 59% of Londoners in favour of implementing an online voting option for the London Mayoral Election. Following the release of the poll, leading Mayoral candidates Labour’s Sadiq Khan and the Conservatives’ Zac Goldsmith voiced their support for introducing online voting.
Reports earlier this year by the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy and by the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee recommended that online voting should be introduced for the 2020 General Election.
The ‘Viral Voting’ report published by WebRoots Democracy set out ten recommendations in order for the UK to implement online voting which included pilots in devolved Mayoral elections.
Read the full Fast Company interview with Barack Obama here.