Ahhh, what’s that you hear? It’s the sound of (near) silence from political pundits. The sound of regular commercials instead of attack ads. The sound of us un-hiding all those Facebook friends with different political opinions than our own.
Election Season 2016 is behind us, and I’d say we all deserve a drink for surviving it.
As I trudged my way through the acrimonious sludge that was this election cycle, I found myself holding onto one silver lining for dear life.
There’s no possible way the 2020 election can be worse. [currently knocking on wood]
In fact, I’m downright optimistic that the next presidential election will have several improvements in store for us.
Technology and media have shaped the election cycle, and the election cycle has shaped them. Here’s how I’m hoping media and technology will have advanced to improve the voter experience by 2020.
1 I am one of the 43+ million voters who cast their votes early. I voted about 3 weeks early, which means I endured the barrage of negative ads for 3 weeks after they stop mattering to me. In my perfect world, there would be a way to indicate that I voted and have ads stop at that time. Maybe the ballot counter would give me a code or would communicate with my internet/cable provider to cease all ads as soon as my ballot was counted. Who knows? Perhaps this would even increase early voting turnout.
2Some news outlets use focus groups to show how undecided voters are reacting during the debates, but I’d love a real-time look at how the undecided voters in attendance are feeling, specifically during the town hall debate. How are they reacting to candidates’ responses and body language? How is their vote being swayed question by question? Is the lurking in the room as uncomfortable as it seems on TV? The mood in the room is something that those focus groups (and those of us at home) don’t get to experience, and I think it would provide valuable insight to hear directly from those experiencing it first-hand.
3Facebook experimented with making sample ballots available to voters this year, but they were incomplete and didn’t look like the real ballot. When I got into the ballot box, my ballot was much longer than expected and—had I not had a handy dandy “this is how [insert party here] wants you to vote” card—I likely would have left many bubbles blank. I would have loved to have been able to see my actual sample ballot on Facebook. I probably would have done more research on the front end and would have entered the ballot box as a more informed voter.
4I’d love to have a way to poll my friends on their preferences in a certain race, perhaps anonymously. For example, let’s say I have no idea who to vote for in the race for Insurance Commissioner—I could ask my friends to anonymously “vote” in a poll, and perhaps even add in reasons why. I’d care what the people closest to me think in situations like that. Social networks would love it too since it would provide them with even more valuable data about individuals that they might not typically reveal through a social network.
5Real-time fact-checking made its debut during this 2016 cycle and I, for one, found it incredibly informative. There’s real value in having a nonpartisan entity like Politifact doing real-time fact-checking live on the screen—scrolling at the bottom during the debates, major press conferences, etc. I believe it would lead to more informed voters and more accountable politicians. And who doesn’t want both of those??
So that’s it. Five little requests to make the voting experience more enjoyable in 2020. Our technology wizards have four years to figure out how to pull these off, and we have four years to pretend like the 2016 election cycle was nothing more than a bad dream.