Will Online Tools Promote Voter Participation?

Recently came across VoteForChange.com, a neat, aggressively simple little web app that registers users to vote and neatly organizes polling information.

The basic premise is great: take the clunky user-unfriendly format of bureaucratic voter registration forms and break it down into nice, neat, discrete steps that automatically piece together a filled out sheet that’s all ready to be quickly printed and mailed in a few minutes. The strategy here, is also pretty obvious: by lowering the usual time and effort costs of finding/filling out a form, the hope is to increase election participation from a pool of unregistered eligibles (by and large youth voters).

From a historical point of view, this is an interesting push. As Gasser and Palfrey point out in Born Digital, much of the political activity on the web, particularly by digital natives, historically hasn’t been about civic engagement on the level of voting. Instead, most have turned to public service activities like helping out at shelters, covering news stories, and coordinating fund raising drives.

Certainly the explosion of election stories that have been filtering to mainstream media via blogger coverage this year and the unprecedented shifts in the campaign contribution distributions seems to suggest that this year might be the year that online tools take a more central stage in political activity (at least within the United States). Though, no doubt, only time will tell how much tools like VoteForChange will actually encourage greater involvement on the critical level of the ballot box.

Can voter participation be a part of online life in the same way that contributing to political discourse via blogging, video sharing, and commenting has?

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One Response to “Will Online Tools Promote Voter Participation?”

  1. Jarek Says:

    We would like to invite you to our election site at: http://www.avaguide.net/us_election
    It let’s you support and vote for your candidate. You can choose one of 4 interactive video characters and use it for your candidates promotion. We would like to know what you think about it – please leave a comment. Thank you!