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Vote for President by Streaming Video: Could this Be the Future?

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Much will be written about how the presidential campaigns and the networks covering them are using online video to advance their agendas, but I want to share a simple concept about streaming as part of the larger civic fabric.

For the past several elections, a significant trend has emerged: a call to replace the electoral college with the direct election of the president by popular vote.

In some ways, the success of election-day marketing is reaping what it sowed: We now have such a fine-tuning of appeal to smaller, sometimes niche, segments of the population that the difference between winner and loser is exceedingly narrow. The trend is sure to continue, as the marketing of elections has had such an effect that winners are often narrowly defined by tens, hundreds, or thousands of votes, respectively, for local, state, and national elections.

The trend has led to increasing calls for an end to the electoral college, and a move to the popular vote. While the U.S. has always been a republic, with representatives in Congress based on population within a varying number of districts, we have never -- yet -- had a direct democracy such as the ancient Greeks or modern Swiss citizens.

Still, the arguments against direct democracy, at least on national elections, are beginning to fall. Streaming, though, may be just the catalyst to help accelerate the move to a popular vote approach. Think, for instance, of the concept of going to the polls on election day, casting a vote via a live video stream, and having that vote recorded in a national database.

Consider this scenario on Election Day 2020: You wake up a few minutes early, in order to head to the polls before the morning commute, and find your government-issued photo ID (stay with me here, as to why you need this). At the polling place, your signature is compared to the signature on file on your voting card, and you receive a ballot. You then wait in line for the next voting booth to become available.

Once you enter the voting booth, a typical ballot greets you. Regardless of whether the ballot is electronic or paper, whether it has hanging chads or just hangs up, each name of the ballot has a unique alphanumeric code next to it. A1, for instance, could be Hillary Clinton, while A2 could be Condoleezza Rice.

Once you've looked at the ballot, it's time to make a choice and vote. You press the "live stream" button in the voting booth, face the camera and hold up both your ballot and photo ID. An audible beep and an on-screen visual confirm the live stream is active, and a secondary visual confirms that your photo ID and ballot number have both been read via optical character and facial recognition.

Once these confirmations flash on screen, a recorded voice asks for your vote for the first ballot initiative, the vote for president. You respond with either the candidate's name, the unique alphanumeric code, or both. The screen visual then flashes the appropriate candidate's name on the screen and asks you to confirm the correct choice. If correct, you respond in the affirmative, and the voice then prompts for the next ballot initiative. At the end of all initiatives, the system then asks you to state your full name and to affirm that the vote has been cast of your own initiative, without duress.

That's it; you're done voting. When the voting booth door opens again, the system discontinues the live stream, waiting for the next voter to enter the booth, at which time another live stream is initiated.

Obviously this scenario doesn't solve any number of issues, and it requires some modifications -- a soundproof voting booth and wide-angle camera, for instance, to verify no one is coercing your vote within the booth itself -- but the scenario does provide a way for every registered voter to make sure her face is seen and her voice is heard in a key national election. And we can't ask for much more than that, can we?

This article appears in the October/November, 2012, issue of Streaming Media magazine under the title "Streaming for President."

Vote image via Shutterstock.

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