The 2012 election season is upon us, whether we want it or not, beginning of a year of endless campaigning and politicking. Even if the entire process tires you out, the right to vote is an important one and most would agree that everyone who is eligible should exercise that right.
More than half of U.S. citizens don't vote, which is a dismal number when compared to other democracies around the globe. The reasons for this are multiple, but the basic problem is that voting isn't always easy or convenient. If only it was possible to vote from your smartphone, right? We're not quite there yet. But there is a solution almost as good.
Yesterday at the 2011 Personal Democracy Forum, university students Seth Plaxman and Paul Schreiber introduced Turbo Vote. The idea behind this project is to make voting as easy as Netflix has made DVD rentals.
When users sign up for Turbo Vote, the service can get them registered to vote by and/or registered to vote via mail-in/absentee ballot based on local laws and regulations. All the proper paperwork arrives at your door already filled out with an addressed, postage-paid envelope. Just sign it and send to the local election board. For most states, the process is very simple. For the more complex rules and regulations, Turbo Vote will help you understand and comply with them.
When election times comes, your local election board will send you a ballot. Just be sure to get it back to them before the deadline. So you won't forget, Turbo Vote will send reminders via text or email (your choice). Not just for presidential years, but all local, state, and federal elections.
For people who have trouble getting to polling stations or are concerned about feeling intimidated at the polls, this is an easy, elegant solution. Especially if you live in a state where the process of getting a mail-in or absentee ballot isn't straightforward, Turbo Vote has done all the research for you.
Turbo Vote could have a big impact on the next election if enough people get signed up in time, but Plaxman and Schreiber point out that where the service is likely to have the biggest impact is in local elections that don't happen during times of big national attention. If you got a reminder to vote for your councilperson, judges, sheriff, or any number of local officials, you're more likely to pay more attention to who exactly is running and what they stand for. And that means a more participatory democracy for all of us.