In short: Allowing smartphone users to cast their election ballots through their handsets could have resulted in as many as 60 million additional votes during the 2016 US presidential election, according to a recent survey conducted by the IoT firm Metova. The survey involved more than 1000 consumers and was intended to more generally cover the “Mobile First” trend. While only a third of all respondents were ‘interested’ in voting from a smartphone, as many as 67-percent of those who did not take participate in the 2016 election would have if they could have from their mobile device.
Background: Setting smartphone-based voting aside, the results of the survey show at least one way that technology companies are looking to resolve ongoing issues surrounding politics, elections, and the viability of information. Those topics become relatively big concerns for a large number of technology companies, following allegations of election tampering, fake news, and an apparent widespread division in US politics. In response to that, those companies are taking a huge variety of approaches to address the problem ranging from incorporating transparency through policy, as Twitter has, to countering false information and implementing soft-ban policies for users who spread it. Smartphone voting has also been brought up prior to the new survey as well as further associated concerns about the viability of the platform and preventative measures to disallow fraud. Proponents of the idea view the technology as a way to get more people to the polls in spite of life circumstances such as work or emergencies which might otherwise prevent them from voting.
While the survey specifically concludes that just short of half of the US’s eligible voters didn’t vote in 2016 but would have if it could be accomplished via an app or smartphone feature, the implications are far more general. To begin with, although there was a small split among those favoring smartphone voting – with 36-percent claiming to be Democrats versus 19-percent for Republicans – the issue is not necessarily a partisan one. Independents accounted for 35-percent of survey participants who would have voted that way if able. More than 40-percent of eligible and registered adults, approximately 92 million people, opted not to vote during the election in question while around 138 million did. Those figures represent a sizeable enough portion of the US voting population that the resulting counts would likely be more representative of the populace as a whole for any given issue or election.
Impact: Whether or not studies such as this result in any changes in the real world, however, is another matter entirely. Google, for example, has previously stated that it wants to bring Android’s security up to a level which would allow for the smartphones to be used in that way. But that is likely a long way off since the mobile platform is relatively fragmented, with years between the launch of a new OS version and that reaching the majority of users. Unless a solution to the concerns about cyber security can be found and put in place more quickly than that, there isn’t much chance that users will be able to cast a vote with the technology anytime soon.