On Tuesday, November 4, Americans will go to the polls to cast their votes on Election Day. However, with high voter interest, millions of new voters, new rules and new voting technology, the day could be a little chaotic. In past elections, we’ve heard reports of long lines and other challenges at the polls, but in 2008, new mobile technologies will allow voters to address, circumvent and solve potential Election Day log-jams on the spot, as well as help document history in the making.
In 2000 and 2004, voter turnout was approximately 54 percent and 60 percent respectively. With even greater expectations this year, the 2008 election could have the highest voter turnout in modern history, possibly even beating the 1960 election’s high water mark of 64 percent. The numbers could be record-breaking, and while that is great for democracy, it also could lead to potential problems for hopeful voters facing long lines and other obstacles at the polls.
A number of organizations are planning to use modern technology to handle Election Day issues, including getting proper addresses for and directions to polling sites, rides to the polls, and general voter information. Groups like Rock the Vote and Common Cause are working with Video the Vote and Twitter Vote Report to document voter experiences at the polls on Election Day. Voters can also call 1-866-OUR-VOTE or 1-888-Vv-Y-Vota to ask for real-time help or legal advice courtesy of the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition.
In addition to addressing potential election issues, mobile technology allows users to document historic moments in this election cycle through words, pictures and video, enabling everyone to become a citizen-journalist. At rallies across the country, cell phones are held high in the air to take pictures of the crowds and using Qik, a mobile video application, supporters can live stream the candidates’ speeches on their own websites. On CNN, Rick Sanchez regularly uses Twitter to gather information and shares viewers’ tweets on the air. And all of this is in addition to how the campaigns have used mobile technology to connect with voters.
YouTube and PBS have also collaborated on Video Your Vote, a channel for users to share their Election Day experiences and the New York Times is hosting the Polling Place Photo Project, where voters can submit photos of their Election Day experiences. Many news organizations like CNN will also be updating their mobile sites with election news and results as they come in.
If the predictions hold, Election Day will bring a few more momentous occasions, including the highest turnout in a modern election (more than 64 percent), a record number of young voters (18-29 year-olds), and either the first African-American president or the first female Vice President. And mobile technology will help voters properly exercise their franchise, get to the right polling places, and record and share these momentous events as they happen to make November 4 the most documented Election Day ever.