Civic engagement in a digital age will be one of the big storylines of Day 1 of SXSW Interactive, with President Barack Obama participating in a panel discussion at the Long Center for the Performing Arts on Friday afternoon.
But he's not the only one with voting on the mind. One of the opening panels Friday dealt with using technology to make voting easier and more accessible.
The panel: Voter Technology: A Reimagined Future
Date/time: Friday, 9:30 a.m.
The gist: After weighing in on the Austin vs. San Antonio #TacoWar -- "Austin says they have better breakfast tacos. That's like slapping my mother in the face." -- Rep. Bernal noted that his pals in the Texas Legislature seem intent on making it harder to vote in the name of stopping voter fraud. Given the "D" beside his name, it's no surprise that Bernal isn't buying it. And neither is Jackson, whose design-thinking firm IDEO has worked to help develop touchscreen and other technologies to bring voting into the digital age. "That technology exists," Jackson said. "There is an opportunity to make voting a better experience." He cited Texas figures on how few cases of voter fraud have actually been prosecuted and argued that technology could help to discourage, not encourage, impropriety at the polls. If we're willing to do our banking online, Jackson said, then why not our voting? "If I can sign myself up for a 30-year mortgage over the Internet, then the idea that I can’t register to vote just doesn’t make sense to me," he said.
The takeaway: Voting remains behind the times, and smart people are working to fix that. But in states like Texas that are more focused on passing voter ID laws, don't plan on voting on your iPhone anytime soon.
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