The rapid rise and evolution of the internet has fundamentally altered many aspects of our modern life. The way we interact with each other, the way business is conducted, and even the way we get our news and information has been changed by the internet and social media’s ability to instantly connect us to almost anyone in the world. Ideas can be shared, opinions voiced, and issues discussed with both friends and strangers alike through the stroke of a key. We now have the ability to connect with others and find common cause over issues and ideals that once would be barred by geographic limitations on communication. Computers are being made smaller, faster, and even being integrated into wearable objects like watches and glasses so we never have to be too far from the internet. The ability to reach millions of people instantly is being utilized in new and different ways by groups trying to disseminate their ideas and promote their agendas. How far should the amazing new ability for every individual to voice his or her opinion on the internet stretch into the realm of election law?
The Internet has increasingly become the main source of information for many Americans. Indeed, many errands we once accomplishedwith a car or a postage stamp are now done simply with a few clicks of the mouse. As Americans have grown more dependent upon sites such as Amazon and Netflix, it stands to reason that they are also increasingly more likely to seek out information regarding their civic duties using the Internet.
Because of this ever-growing dependence upon the Web, it is more important than ever that government institutions engage voters online. While analysts, politicians, and many others have been busy discussing online voting for years, few have taken stock of where state governments are right now when it comes to communicating with voters online. If Internet voting ever does become commonplace in the American electoral landscape, it is only logical that it would come after other necessary steps in the voting process like Internet registration and Internet absentee applications. Before any of those technological advances in the voting process, it makes sense that a state must first determine how to properly communicate information online and create logical ways to access the functionality the state already enlists. In the spirit of calls for what Heather Gerken has termed a “Democracy Index” of how well states run elections, this post attempts to survey states’ online voter information sites to assess where things stand. [Read more…] about A look at election websites state by state