US President, Barack Obama, has repeated his calls for the technology industry to develop systems of secure online voting to be used in elections across America.
In his speech at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, the President was critical of low levels of voter participation and said it was ‘much easier to order a pizza or a trip than it is for you to exercise the single most important task in democracy, and that is for you to elect who is going to represent you in government.’
Last year, Obama described online voting as a ‘priority’ for technology companies and that Governments should be thinking about how technology can ‘enhance the experience of democracy.’
Speaking to the Editor-in-Chief of the Texas Tribune in front of an audience of over 2,000 people, the President described America as ‘the only advanced democracy in the world that makes it harder for people to vote’ and that it is made ‘as hard as possible’ for citizens to vote.
Directing his comments towards the SXSW conference, which includes a focus on emerging technologies, he said:
“Now, I think it’s important for a group like this, as we come up to an election, regardless of our party affiliation, to think about how do we redesign our system so that we don’t have 50 percent or 55 percent voter participation in presidential elections, and during off-year congressional elections, you have 39 or 40 percent voting.”
He then went on to reveal that the US Government is already engaging with technology companies to help make online voting a reality:
“So one of the things that we’re doing is engaging folks that are already doing interesting work in the online space, how can we create safe, secure, smart systems for people to be able to vote much easier online and what are the technologies that are available to make people more aware of what they’re voting for.”
He said that it shouldn’t be federal government ‘engineering’ online voting, but instead to build upon the ‘incredible talent’ represented at the conference to ‘really spend time thinking about it and begin to work on it.’ Aside from the potential of the technology to increase voter turnout, the President said it could help make sure that ‘people are informed about who they’re voting for and why they’re voting.’
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