April 26, 2009

One Election Official's Efforts To Build See-Thru Democracy Using Web 2.0

I NEED some help. Perhaps you could take a minute or two and read through this proposal which I plan to submit for consideration to the Gov2.0 Summit Conference. Your comments and thoughts would help me better tailor the proposal, make it more useful for the conference attendees and best of all, potentially help me land a spot on the conference agenda.

I appreciate the help!

Kindly leave your comments on this blog site or send your suggestions to warren@warrenslocum.com - thank you in advance.

Here is the "draft" of my conference proposal.

To rephrase Barack Obama’s campaign platform on technology and tailor it to the world of elections, I would say that, "We must use all available technologies and methods to open up the election process, creating a new level of transparency to change the way business is conducted in each and every election office in America, and giving Americans the chance to participate in election deliberations and decision-making in ways that were not possible only a few years ago.

All kinds of election reform ideas surfaced after the 2000 election cycle. More ideas made their way to the forefront after the melt down of many electronic election systems that were purchased in the rush after the passage of the Help America Vote Act. Some of the older reform ideas include using a paper trail on electronic voting machines to a recent idea of creating a “Democracy Index” that would rank election office performance on various measures. Other ideas that have come up include a return to paper ballots, a move toward Instant Run-off elections, photo identification at the polls and expanded audits of elections.

But many of those reforms rely on the federal or state government for legislation, funding or both. Most involve large scale change which is often slow in coming - especially given the partisan nature of legislatures. And election administrators have not exactly been strong supporters of election reform.

How could election reform be deployed rapidly, without large intervention efforts, partisan based legislative changes and/or costly new programs? How could citizens have greater peace of mind to know that their vote was counted properly? How could they know that the election was conducted honestly? How, after all the votes were totaled, could anyone say - I understand how the process works? What does election administration 2.0 look like? How is it different than what has traditionally been called election administration? In short, how could election reform happen from the bottom up rather than the top down and help build a new paradigm - “see-thru democracy?”

One election official interested in election reform, citizen engagement and Web 2.0 technologies did just that rapidly and without great cost - he deployed a series of of innovations that increased transparency, fixed accountability and brought everyday citizens into the election process.

This proposal describes one elections office in California and how it has fundamentally reshaped election administration by using Web 2.0 tools and technology. It illustrates how a “see-thru democracy” can be created using some free tools as well as other low cost resources.

Specifically, the proposed session is created for the Gov2.0 Summit: The Platform for Change Conference (sponsored by O’Reilly and Techweb). It would describe and show examples of this effort of how San Mateo County, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, reached out to voters using web 2.0 technology--spreading transparent, two-way communication and information--building community.

What did we offer? Voter access to their registration status, sample ballot, track & confirm receipt of vote by mail ballots, polling place look ups, an Inside Election blog, Warren Slocum's New Democracy blog, Election News Now on Twitter, photos on Flickr, democracyLive! on Facebook, YouTube videos, live web cams, a video gallery, RSS, election night results presented in creative, useful ways, poll worker sign-ups and instructional materials and much more. The most leading edge effort from the Presidential General Election - a project that had never been done in America, “Anatomy of Election ‘08” - a live election night broadcast that showed in real time various election processes. That broadcast had a potential of reaching over 100,000 households.

Where is San Mateo County Elections going next? Headlong toward the mobile PDA world of community and communication - expanded use of online video and greater transparency into election processes.

What does the future hold for this type of change? The presenter postulates that legislators take notice of successful local projects and subsequently get those efforts into state law. Thus creating citizen centric election reform from the bottom up, rather than the top down and along the way creating “see-thru democracy.”

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Anonymous said...

I don't know your audience, but, as a reader, I felt it took too long to get to the point.

I would drop paragraphs 1, 2, 3, and 5.

Instead lead with paragraphs 6 and 7 ("This proposal describes...") followed by paragraph 4 ("How could election reform...), and finish with paragraphs 8, 9, and 10.

Paragraph 8 ("What did we offer?...") should list the offerings in bullet point list form. This will draw skimming readers straight to the points of interest.

* * *

FWIW, I think you're getting too far ahead of the crowd with all this technology (and splintering your information into too many channels).

Smart phones are yet the province of the wealthy. IMO moving "headlong toward the mobile PDA world of community and communication" smacks of techno-elitism, not democratization or transparency.

That's my opinion. --You asked for it!

Warren Slocum said...

I am making the changes you suggested. Thanks for the read and the edit. I will post the changed proposal soon.