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Voting on the indieweb

If you’re an American citizen, you should vote in next week’s election. Maybe you already have: I sent in my mail-in ballot, which is by far the easiest and most convenient way to do your democratic duty, as well as the best way to vote while researching your choices. (All of which is probably why so many people want to do away with it.)

I was asked a while back if there was an indieweb solution for adding a widget on your website to help people register to vote. I wish this was an easier problem to solve than it is: because every jurisdiction has different voting infrastructure that doesn’t adhere to any reliably shared principles or standards, there’s no open source way to make this work without staying on top of every single voting portal. There are proprietary embeds to make this work - notably from vote.org - but they offer very few customization options and essentially require a full-page takeover. To customize more fully, you need to pay: a way for the underlying nonprofit to pay its bills, but counter to the mission of getting more people to register.

It seems to me that it would be in the interests of political parties to create simple voter registration tools and make it as easy as possible to integrate them into your site or app. Let people register as easily as possible, and direct them to the voting option that’s best for them, all from the websites and apps they’re already using. (And then, perhaps, track their registration automatically so they know if it was rejected for some reason.) Democracy is strongest when every citizen can use their democratic right to vote.

I’m not a govtech guy, but I’m aware this is pie in the sky thinking. Still: the best way to make this happen would be to create a single standard for election registration. Provide a single interface standard and a set of APIs that all local election portals must implement, then make it incredibly easy for them to do so by providing libraries and open source software. The current, standards-less, highly-federated way government software works is ludicrous, and can only lead to a bad citizen experience. Not everyone needs to use the same software, but surely it should be possible to get states to agree to some base technical standards, in the same way they all now use HTTP and HTML.

This post is mostly brought to you by anxiety about the election. I feel powerless to stop what I think is almost inevitably going to happen. Please, please, please, please vote.

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Email: ben@werd.io

Twitter: @benwerd

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