April 20, 2011

Electronic Delivery of Election Information

THE PEW Center on the States recently released a report (The Cost of Delivering Voter Information: A Case Study of California," which discussed the cost savings related to the electronic delivery of election information. The study correctly says that California counties are still distributing election material the way they did 50 years ago - by paper mailings. It goes on to say that governments could save up to nine percent of their election expenses if a portion of their voters agreed to cancel paper mailings.

Orange, Sacramento and San Mateo counties already offer the paperless choice. In San Mateo County publicity about the paperless option started reaching voters recently and as of this post, 2,601 out of approximately 350,000 registered voters have taken advantage of the paperless option.

San Mateo County's approach illustrates how one county currently handles the "green" voter information delivery option.

If a person wants to sign up to permanently receive their election materials in paperless form, the voter inputs their house number, zip code and birthday and chooses to receive election material electronically. Then, around 30 days before the next election, the voter receives an email with a link to a PDF of their Sample Ballot.

A person can opt out at any time.

One voter said of the electronic approach, "I think the cool thing is that the links included in the Candidate Statements makes it easy to get a full view of all of the candidates in the race without having to type a thing. Just click, review, hit the back arrow and check out the next person. So easy."

While this approach works, it doesn't work well for those of us who are mobile. Someone needs to develop an app for the paperless delivery of election materials so that by the time the 2012 presidential election cycle rolls around we can receive everything on our smartphone, iPad or whatever device might be popular then.

Imagine. Wouldn't it be great if election materials included not only the "official" election material but also had enhanced voter information with links to news, social media sites, spending and contribution reports. Maybe even online forums and debates. All of this could resemble the "Flipboard" application on the iPad an it would not only save money as the Pew report says but it would make government election material almost "inviting" to look at and read through.

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