Brian Davis – U.S. Mobile Voting App

More than ever the world around us is becoming heavily impacted by mobile media and mobile devices. Mobility today has many different meanings and translations that can be seen through the devices we use and the way that we communicate and interact with each other. Many of the decisions that we make on a daily basis are influenced or made through the use of mobile media. There are many outlets that we use and our influenced through our use of mobile devices. Social media has become a big and almost integral part of American culture and has spread worldwide. It has theoretically changed the way we interact with one another. It has changed the way we view our identity. And it has changed the way we receive and report news. Furthermore, we users often latch on to whatever becomes popularized or trends on social media. If one chose to believe this as the “gospel truth,” one could theorize that most of what we do is influenced by what is popularized on social media outlets. In thinking of voting in the United States, young voters and often minorities for a variety of different reasons are either disinterested or discouraged to vote. A voter’s disinterest could spawn from lack of appeal or knowledge on the candidates or politics as a whole. Discouragement from a minority voter’s perspective could be from the government’s past injustices towards minorities and a lack of trust in the system. And there’s also the issue of accessibility for handicapped persons who would want to vote. What if there was a mobile application that could address all of these issues and change the way we voted for our President? I believe that our society and this generation as a whole would benefit greatly from this application. Not only would this application provide a social justice for accessibility, but it would also educate and motivate potential voters.
When given the task to design a mobile application for social justice, I had a difficult time at first. This task became very difficult for me at first because my field research had little to do with my social justice application. Originally, I had intended to design an application that would allow a person to be able to check to approximate waiting time at a particular restaurant prior to that person’s arrival at the restaurant of choice. So for my field research I chose to observe families who were waiting to be seated at the Cheesecake Factory restaurant at the King of Prussia mall. This, I thought, would be a great way to see how families and people interacted with each other and how the wait may have effected their behavior. I wanted to observe people’s tendencies while they waited. What I found in my research was that people became very much reliant on their mobile devices as the wait went on. People would start off interacting with one another and their company they may have had, but eventually they would turn towards their mobile devices for entertainment or a time-waster. But in the end, my original application wasn’t nearly strong or impactful enough to be classified or labeled as a social justice application. I had to dig deeper and fully understand what a social justice application was and what it provided.

According to Ann Light and Rosemary Luckin, “social justice involves everybody. It is not something that can happen piecemeal in a small corner of the world. At the minimum, it is about redistributing rights and privileges between and within nations.” (Light and Luckin, 2008) So I wanted to come up with an application that would have a positive impact on something that has a serious impact on all of our lives as citizens of this great country. I wanted to come up with a social justice application for presidential voting. In today’s day and age, mobile devices allow a number of things to be within our grasp that may or may not have previously been within reach for certain people. In thinking of voting, I wanted to create an application that would re-energize this generation and it’s attitude towards voting, while making it more accessible and appealing to people. Voting is such an important constitutional right that we American citizens are fortunate to have. As an African-American, this is a right that my ancestors in previous generations weren’t afforded in the United States. So as an African-American, when you vote there is a respect that you are paying back to those who sacrificed and gave their lives and freedoms for you to experience.

The application that I have created is entitled the “U.S. Mobile Voting Application.” This application would not only allow someone to vote, but it would also allow a person the ability to register to vote as well. The main motive of this application is to act as a more accessible and appealing way to get people to vote. Users would be able to directly download this application on to their mobile devices such as their cell phones or tablets. Once the application is downloaded, the application would then require the user to provide information pertaining to their legal identification, citizenship, etc. Doing this will then allow the user to have registered to legally vote. This process in itself eliminates the current procedure that we have in the U.S., which can often times be very long. This would allow the user to register within a matter of minutes. After the user is registered to vote, it will give them the option to post or share the news of their registration on a social media outlet such as Facebook or Twitter. I believe that this is one of the most important features of my application. For example the post would say, “ I just registered to vote, click on the link below to register today.” This feature would also be available to the user on voting day. I believe that in sharing this news on Facebook or Twitter, this would entice more voters, particularly younger voters to register to vote and take part in their constitutional right. Once the user is registered to vote, they will be able to view every presidential candidate’s profile and information.

In viewing their profile, they will be able to see what each candidate plans to change and or implement if elected into office. This feature will also provide the user with video from each candidate and quoted information and facts from them. It will provide the user with factual information pertaining to a candidate’s past accomplishments, education, experience, and government seating if applicable. Not only would this feature in the application be beneficial to the user but it would also be beneficial to the candidates themselves. It would benefit the user because it would provide them factual and unbiased information on each and every candidate running for office. This would allow the voter to make an educated and well thought out decision if they choose to use the provided information. This would benefit the candidate because it would almost lessen some of the “load” that they may have to carry in campaigning and getting their message and pitches out to voters. Though they would still have to work vigorously to ensure that they get support, they can rest assure that the “U.S. Mobile Voting Application” would only provide factual information based off of their comments and history. The only way this could be a negative for a candidate is if they have said or done something controversial in the past that would be highlighted in their profile. Nevertheless the application is specifically designed for the voter to provide them with factual information on each candidate whether it is good or bad.

Historically since the introduction of the cell phone in the late 1970’s, mobile technology has advanced at a rapid pace (Goggin, 2006). Soon after in the 1990’s, the Internet also began to take over. “Between 1996 and the 2000 presidential campaign much changed on the digital landscape. In the United States, access to the Internet continued to expand, and software applications advanced” (Stromer-Galley, 2014). Between 1996 and 2000, the number of households with access to the Internet more than doubled to 44 million (Stromer-Galley, 2014). The Internet would become another tool that political candidates would be able to use in their advantage. The advancement of the Internet and the cell phone alone make this application possible. One design that I modeled my application after was Bedloo. Bedloo is an application that allows its users to create their own questions and find out what others think about it by voting on it. It also allows you to share your questions on multiple social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Of course my application would a much more sophisticated design and interface than that of Bedloo. And it would also vary in its features, being as though the user isn’t creating a question, they are simply voting. And the only time the user would share using my application is when they initially register to vote and when they vote. Both of which are optional features at the discretion of the user. But I believe that the sharing feature of my application would get a lot of young voters to go out and exercise their right. As of 2014, the total number of active users on Facebook is 1,310,000,000 (Facebook, 2014). And 48% of 18-34 year olds check their Facebook accounts when they wake up (Facebook, 2014).

This application clearly more than anything else addresses accessibility. If you are legally of age and have a mobile device capable of downloading the app, you will be able to use it. The only people who will not be able to access or use this application are people who are not legally of age or are not U.S. citizens. But this application will greatly benefit handicapped persons who may have a hard time getting out to the polls to vote. According to a study done by Lisa Schur, Meera Adya, and Douglas Kruse, “Disability, Voter Turnout, and Voting Difficulties,” the voter turnout rate of people with disabilities was 5.7 percentage points lower than that of people without disabilities. There would be 3 million more voters with disabilities if they voted at the same rate as people without disabilities who are otherwise similar in age and other demographic characteristics (Schur, Adya, & Kruse, 2013). Also according to the report, almost one-third (30.1%) of voters with disabilities reported difficulty in voting at a polling place in 2012, compared to 8.4% of voters without disabilities (Schur, Adya, & Kruse, 2013). Among the common problems reported was difficulty in reading or seeing the ballot, or understanding how to vote or use voting equipment (Schur, Adya, & Kruse, 2013). In applying this information that was found, we can conclude that the current way of voting can be very difficult for people with disabilities. My application would be a definite upgrade and allow disabled persons the ability to vote with ease from the comfort of their home and using their mobile devices. This would eliminate the task of travel to local polls and would be much more convenient. As of right now, the current system of voting can make it very difficult for an individual with a disability to exercise their right to vote.

Mobility also plays a big role in how my application would make things much easier for people with disabilities and more appealing to younger voters. In today’s generation, mobility plays a huge part in the different technologies that we use. Most people today like to not only perform multiple tasks at once but also perform these tasks on the go. But with the advantage of mobility and accessibility that my application offers, there is also a disadvantage in privacy compared to the current form of voting at the polls. One of the key advantages that today’s form of voting can offer an individual is that they can cast their vote in private without anyone knowing who they voted for. In all honesty and being realistic, this application would be very risky as far as privacy goes. In order for someone to register to vote, there is a lot of personal information that is required. There are also a lot of costs issues to maintain a person’s privacy when they vote. According to a study done by Jeremy Epstein, “Internet Voting, Security, and Privacy,” there has been a high level of interest in Internet voting but the risks may be high as well (Epstein, 2011). “Regardless of the acquisition cost of the software and hardware, costs for Internet voting also include training staff to operate the system, constant monitoring of the voting system for security and reliability issues, updating the software to resolve problems found in operation, testing, maintaining and upgrading hardware, etc. (Epstein, 2011). This lets me know that the idea of a mobile voting application will be very costly, especially if you wish to maintain privacy. But part of the responsibility of privacy will rely on the user. For instance, if the user decides that he or she wants to vote at their job on their mobile device or in an area with unstable Wi-Fi connection, the user is part to blame. But one way that I would ensure privacy and protect identity is that once the user votes, the application will then automatically uninstall from that persons device. But in today’s day and age, there is no perfect or real way to ensure ones privacy or validity. At first glance at this application, many would be skeptical of the application’s privacy and security, but as we learned in the controversial election of 2000, are current system can be subject to fraud and corruption as well.

Visual Component:

http://youtu.be/PpcDFfHkAOQ

Works Cited

Light, A. and Luckin, R. (2008). Designing for social justice: people, technology, and learning. Opening Education. Retrieved from https://mobmed14.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/designing_for_social_justice.pdf

Burgess, D., Haney, B., Snyder, M., Sullivan, J. L., & Transue, J. E. (1996). Rocking The Vote: Using Peresonalized Messages To Motivate Voting Among Young Adults. Retrieved May 9, 2014, from poq.oxfordjournals.org: http://poq.oxfordjournals.org/content/64/1/29.full.pdf+html

Designing for social justice: people, technology, learning. (2008). Retrieved April 2014, from mobmed14.files.wordpress.com: https://mobmed14.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/designing_for_social_justice.pdf

Epstein, J. (2011). Internet Voting, Security, and Privacy. Retrieved May 2014, from schjolarship.law.wm.edu: http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1582&context=wmborj

Facebook. (2014). Facebook Statistics. Retrieved May 2014, from statisticbrain.com: http://www.statisticbrain.com/facebook-statistics/

Goggin, G. (2006). Cell Phone Culture: Mobile technology in everyday life. Retrieved 2014, from mobmed14.files.wordpress.com: https://mobmed14.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/goggin-gerard-cell-phone-culture_ch-5.pdf

Schur, L., Adya, M., & Kruse, D. (2013, July 18). Disability, Voter Turnout, and Voting Difficulties in the 2012 Elections. Retrieved May 9, 2014, from Smlr.Rutgers.edu: http://smlr.rutgers.edu/research-centers/disability-and-voter-turnout

Stromer-Galley, J. (2014). Presidential Campaigning In The Internet Age. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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