Rebooting Democracy with Smart Phones

If there is one thing technological trend that we believe in it is this – mobile technology. The iTunes App Store has over 100,000 mobile applications, new smart phones like the recent Google phone will saturate the market and as all of that happens more and more business, personal productivity and lifestyle applications will get deployed.

The democracy space is not immune from the impacts of this confluence.

A new Silicon Valley company launched a smart phone app yesterday – called Verafirma – that will allow signature gatherers to collect your signature on a cell phone app!

California may become the first state in the nation to apply this kind of technology to the collection of signatures for initiatives, referendums and recalls headed for the ballot.

The new technology is catching some serious buzz, “I think it’s transformative,” said Warren Slocum, our Chief Elections Officer. “I’ve seen it – and from everything I know about it – it’s secure, has the necessary audit trail and provides controls that should give voters and election professionals confidence.”

Slocum cautions, however, that “Depending of the outcome in the courts, we could take a giant step toward the idea of an e-voter who is empowered to support legislation using today’s technology. Assuming it survives a legal test(s) in the courts, which is an inevitable result of the introduction of this new technology, we will know if registrars can take advantage of the efficiencies of the technology or not.”

Check out the video to see how it works!

According to Jude Barry, a San Jose political strategist and co-founder of the firm, the technology also works on an iPod Touch and the Verizon Droid and should soon work on other smart phones.

Slocum added that, “Gov. Hiram Johnson, the California governor who added initiative, referendum and recall to the practice of democracy in the state would be proud. Submitting signatures electronically could make it a lot less expensive for county registrars to verify the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to qualify measures. This innovation is a good thing for the whole movement toward green voting because it reduces the carbon footprint and doesn’t involve having a piece of paper shoved at you in front of a supermarket.”


8 responses to “Rebooting Democracy with Smart Phones

  1. Not bad. Though I don’t know how good I am at drawing my signature with my finger…

    Actually another cool idea for an iPhone app might be one that can tell people where their polling place is and pin it on a map based on their address already in their iPhone. Or maybe poll workers could use it to tell people where to go if they wind up at the wrong precinct. That would be kind of a nifty idea.

    • Your idea for the polling place app is terrific – we’ve actually been thinking along those lines, too. As to the signing with a finger, I thought that very same thing and voiced it to the co-founders of this product. They explained that the science behind valid signatures and signature verification relies on the strokes a person uses to make their signature. There’s a whole body of science behind it.


  2. perhaps if finger signing is a bit difficult, maybe future smart phones could recognize iris patterns or thumb print pattern matching. Still early, but I do like the direction the technology is heading.

  3. Could anyone explain how this could benefit paid circulators?

  4. Oh boy. Another electronic “black box” from the “trust me” school of elections.

    No thanks.

  5. Let me clarify. I’m not impugning the trustworthiness of the ROV. It’s simply the fact that average voters (heck, many computer professionals) can’t or won’t verify SSL connections, let alone detect the kind of click-jacking an application like this would invite. E.g. a voter could think he was signing one petition, but really be signing another.

    On the other hand, just about everyone understands paper; its strengths and weaknesses, and more easily catch on when they are being scammed.

    Cf. Bernie Madoff could trick people into signing away a billion dollars, but no-one could pass a billion dollars in fake currency.

  6. I read on the smcvote Twitter feed, the SoS has opined that a system like that proposed is not consistent with existing law. [no surprise there]

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