It seems that every day I hear about some new initiative somewhere to use SMS or instant message technology for voter mobilization. For example, just yesterday I heard about the efforts in San Francisco to use text messaging to get folks there registered to vote, which I discussed in a blog post yesterday.
Today word from Switzerland is that voters in Bulach, in the Zurich canton, can participate in a pilot project that allows them to cast ballots using SMS, as well as other modes, in a local initiative election. According to one story on this pilot project, “Each voter will be sent a unique user ID through the post. They also have to enter a personal code and their date of birth before they can send their vote, which is recorded to prevent repeat voting.”
One of the goals of the project is to facilitate participation of younger voters, and apparently the same technoloogy will also be piloted in two other towns also in the canton of Zurich in elections in late November.
As with all of the many pilot projects that are going on throughout the world involving innovative new technologies, we hope that as part of the evaluation effort data will eventually be released as to the extent to which this pilot does facilitate participation, influences the composition of the electorate, is usable, and yields no major glitches or security breaches. It will really be interesting to at some point be able to document whether conventional wisdom about SMS and text messaging’s potential utility in voter mobilization holds water — does it increase voter participation, by how much, and among which groups of the electorate?