Elect IT: Technology and the Democratic Process

On Election Day 2008, Americans will head en masse to the polls to cast their ballots in an undoubtedly historic election. But what the average voter might not realize is this election is historic in more ways than one.

Not only has information technology enabled voters to have more access to information about the candidates and the electoral process, but it’s never been easier for people to participate in the process, as the Internet has helped break down barriers to both transparency and accessibility.

“People expect to get the information they want with a quick Web search, and as more people experience the power of having information at their fingertips, it will be increasingly difficult for the government to keep any of its information behind closed doors,” said Daniel Newman, executive director and co-founder of MAPLight.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to show the public the connection between money and politics.

IT has opened those doors, as voters have better access to candidates’ views and finances, as well as a clearer understanding of how to register, where to vote and what’s on the ballot.

Improving Transparency

In prior years, public government information was held captive, available only to those who could afford to pay a fee.

“Government agencies would often make their data sets available only in bulk on big computer tapes,” Newman explained. That meant it was practical only for large database companies to load these tapes onto their computers and sell access by the hour back…


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