September 13, 2011 By Nichole Ciotti
Editor’s Note: Nichole Ciotti is an instructional designer at SOE Software, a provider of Web portals, Web-based training and election reporting software to state and local governments.
The presidential primary race that’s under way is yet another reminder that Election Day isn’t that far away.
During the next 12 months, thousands of election officials across the country will work hard to make sure that each election is conducted fairly and successfully, and that all voters leave the polling place confident in the democratic process and eager to return for the next Election Day. Maintaining the integrity and transparency of the electoral process is a fundamental goal.
Each year, election offices face more and more demands coming from media members, constituents and candidates who demand error-free elections and seek the most current and accurate voting results. Access to the right tools and technology can ease the stress that’s placed on every election office.
Technology is dramatically transforming the election process. Election offices are challenged to keep pace through leveraging technology to increase transparency and improve communication with the public. Here are five technology trends being adopted by election offices across the country to better serve voters, candidates and the media.
1. Online Election Night Reporting. User-friendly presentation of election and voting data enhances transparency while empowering Web visitors to easily locate the information they seek. Election officials at the local, city and statewide level are embracing this concept. More and more jurisdictions are dedicating resources toward enhancing their Web presentation, transforming their online presence from static PDF pages to interactive, graphical, and appealing presentations that integrate GIS maps, bar charts, vote totals, percentages and downloadable files. Enhancing the presentation maximizes public outreach and transparency while minimizing in-bound requests for data.
2. Mobile Websites. The need to deliver content in a format conducive to smartphones, tablets and other small-format devices is paramount as more and more Internet-enabled mobile devices are used by the public. According to Gartner research, “By 2013, more people in the world will access the Internet on a mobile device than on a PC.” On-the-go election information extends voter outreach and voter education initiatives by providing mobile users access to pertinent information in a user friendly display. Examples of mobile presentations include voter lookup functionality, precinct location information, sample ballots and mobile learning for poll workers and part-time volunteers. Mobile representation maximizes voter access, improves voter outreach efforts and reduces the number of inbound calls to election offices.
3. Leveraging Social Media. A strong social media presence allows election offices to communicate with voters, build relationships and achieve recognition in a world where people crave access to immediate information. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 37 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds get information from social networking sites like Facebook. Social networking has become the cornerstone of electronic advertising and is vital in today’s world. Facebook and YouTube accounts are both ideal platforms to show training videos or tips on how to make Election Day run smoothly and efficiently. Twitter is excellent for providing constituents with instant news and updates. Integrated social media strategies benefit an office’s Web and mobile Web focus.
4. Online Poll Worker Training. Integrating online training with classroom training is a great way for election offices to increase public participation; improve poll workers’ knowledge; and save time, money and resources. With online training, election offices can save on the costs associated with the development and distribution of manuals and forms. All materials can be maintained and made available online and downloaded as required by the user. This approach has been proven to work well for adult learners because they can study on their own time and at their own pace. Online training is designed and developed to impact a larger audience and is more effective compared to students who sit in a classroom. Customized reports and assessments can be provided to each learner. According to John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, “The next big killer application on the Internet is going to be education. Education over the Internet is going to be so big it is going to make e-mail usage look like a rounding error.” Better trained poll workers lead to better run elections.
5. Voter Outreach and Education. Many registered voters still lack the confidence and knowledge to take the time to vote in an election. Voters hear messages about where, when and how to vote, but it’s voter confidence that gets people to the polls. Voter confidence can be built through online tutorials that explain the voting process and the use of voting machines and technology. Most importantly, a well educated voter contributes to a smoother Election Day and fewer mistakes at the polls.
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