United States, Mercer County, Official discussed on TED Talks Daily

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This. Ted talk features civic engagement champion Tian apps. Johnson recorded live at Ted salon zebra, twenty eighteen. Support for TED talks daily comes from Northrop Grumman every day at Northrop Grumman, big thinkers are building next level technologies that make our world a safer place. And right now, they're looking for software engineers and systems engineers to join their dynamic team. Your ideas, we'll help drive human discovery expand our understanding of the universe and unlocked. The next breakthrough in global security work on what matters with Northrop Grumman and deliver revolutionary systems underwater on land in air and into space. Visit Northrop Grumman dot com slash careers. To learn more. Okay. Take a moment to let each of you think to yourselves about the last time you sent or received a fax. Well, for me, it was this morning because one piece of my work is making sure that everyone in the US has the information that they need to make decisions about the candidates on their ballot. And collecting that information from the local government offices, responsible for maintaining it. I mean, sending and receiving a lot of faxes voting is one of our most fundamental rights. It's one of the most tangible ways that each and every one of us can shape our communities and as we enter this fourth industrial revolution. Where technology is changing everything around us. You would think the something as important as the right to vote that we would have the most modern secure inclusive system that could exist, but we don't. When we look at comparable democracies. The US has one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the world. We have a system where even the most persistent voters come up against exhausting barriers a system where twentieth century technology like fax machines and outdated practices stand in the way of full, vibrant, participation and US presidential elections. Turn out hovers around sixty percent. The numbers are even lower for local elections that means that nearly forty percent of Americans aren't voters. That's nearly one hundred million people. I believe in something very straightforward that everyone should have the information that they need to become a voter that the voting process should be seamless and secure and that every voter should have information they trust to make decisions about the candidates on their ballot. Because when more people vote together we make better decisions for our communities. So I've spent the last eight years on a mission to push our democracy into the twenty-first century. Now. One of the most common approaches to election modernisation is advocating for policy change, and that's an incredibly important piece of the shadow G for building the system or millions more people become voters. But I've taken a different approach I focused on a critical yet largely untapped resource for election modernization local election officials, I work with thousands of local election officials across the country to build tools and skills that they can use immediately to transform the way that they're engaging. Today's voters folks like captain Murray catenary have worked together for years and a windowless office in the basement of the Mercer county courthouse in West Virginia. Together, they have a tremendous responsibility. Their local election officials serving Mercer counties, forty thousand registered voters local election officials are the public servants that do the day to day work that makes our election system function when you fill out voter registration form, they're the folks that process them and added to the rules. They're the folks who by the technology that we used to cast in count ballots. They recruit and train the volunteers at your local polling place, and there the official nonpartisan source for informing people in their communities about how to vote. And unlike other countries, where there's some form of centralized election authority and the US there are seven thousand eight hundred and ninety seven different county and municipal offices like cat Murray's that each have an independent role in administering elections. Yes, that's generally eight thousand slightly different ways that you might experience voting based on where you happen to live. When I was talking with cotton Marie like so many election officials that I talk with and rural towns in in major cities alike. They're deeply proud of getting to help people in their communities, but they're are also worried all of the new tools that people were using to get information. The internet social media there are difficult to figure out how to use affectively and they felt like they weren't fully meeting. The needs of Mercer county voters. One thing that they really wish that they had was a website. So they could create a hub with information about how to register an upcoming elections and a place to put election results. See at the time when voters had questions they had to either call or visit their office, which meant that cat Marie were inevitably answering the same questions over and over again, which was both a super inefficient use of their time. But also created totally unnecessary barriers. For voters when that information could just live online. And Mercer county wasn't alone at the time. There are one of nine hundred and sixty six counties in the US that had no voting information online. I'll let that sink in. There are one of the nearly one third of counties in the US that had no place online to find fischel information about how to vote. To Katyn marine, not having an election website was unacceptable, but they didn't have very many options. They didn't have the budget to hire a web developer. They didn't have the expertise to villa site themselves. So they want without. And forty thousand Verdes and Mercer county went without. We're in a moment where we have an unprecedented opportunity to transform civic engagement. Technology is revolutionizing science industry. It's already transformed. How we connect with one another and understand the world around us, but our democratic institutions they're being left behind. The US is one of the few major democracies in the world that puts the onus of voter registration on the individual voter rather than the government the rules that govern. How to vote vary from state to state and sometimes even county to county and we have ballots that are pages and pages long this November on my ballot. There are literally over one hundred different people and referenda for me to make decisions about we have to be using the best tools. We can bring bear to help voters navigate this complexity and right now or not. One of the most common narratives, I hear in my work as that people aren't civically engaged because they're apathetic because they don't care. But as my brilliant friends at the center for civic design say if there is apathy, it comes from the system, not the voter. We can change the system right now by connecting and local election officials like cat Marie with twenty-first-century, tools and the training that they need to use them to better serve voters, tools and training to do things. Like, use social media for veteran, gauge -ment. Or use data to staff in a quick polling places. So that we don't see hours long lines at the polls or training on cyber security best practices. So that we can ensure that our voting systems are secure. When we invest in this approach, we see meaningful lasting results. Catenary are online now. Inspired by their experience. We built a website template using research based best practices in civic design and develop a training. So that cat Marie are able to maintain their site themselves in less than a week. They went from having never seen the back end of a website to building a resource for Mercer county voters that they've been independently keeping up to date since two thousand fourteen. Today, the forty thousand voters in Mercer county, and over one hundred thousand voters and counties across the country have everything that they need to become a voter to record from their local election official on a mobile friendly easy to use accessible website. And we can even further scale the impact when local election officials are not only reaching out through their own channels, but they're extending their reach by working in partnership with others. Efforts like the ballot information project in the voting information project work with election fficials nationwide to create a centralized standard database of key voting information like what's on your ballot. And where to vote. That information power tools built by companies like Google and Facebook to get information in the places where people already are like their news feed and search. In twenty sixteen. The ballot information project connected. The public with information about candidates and referenda over two hundred million times helping between a third and a half of every single person who cast a ballot. And that model has been replicated for elections around the world. When we look at efforts and other areas of government, we can see the opportunity when we listen to the public's needs. And we meet them with modern tools. I think about my friends at 'em relief who have helped two hundred and sixty thousand families unlock

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