Federal Communications Commission

Digital Democracy Public Notice

November 19th, 2009 by Kevin Bennett

 Civic participation is critical to the health and legitimacy of our democracy, and our election process, public hearings and town hall meetings are among the most direct and regular opportunities for interaction between our government and its citizens. That is why we have issued a Public Notice (PN) specifically requesting your comments, data and analysis regarding how we can bring our democratic processes into the digital age.

  • Registering to vote: How can broadband help to facilitate voter registration? For example, in Texas, Travis County’s Tax Office has implemented an Internet-based application that allows citizens to register to vote in just minutes over the Internet. What can we learn from what states and local governments like Travis County, Texas have done in this area?
  • Processes leading up to Election Day: There are many steps that come before the election polls open and close where broadband and online services can increase civic participation. Where have these been implemented? What lessons can we learn?
  • Voting: Voting is the most fundamental of civic acts. As technology transforms all aspects of society, could it transform voting as well? Some states and pilot projects have taken steps to enable secure online voting for our brave men and women fighting overseas to ensure that they are not required to give up their right to vote as a condition to defending our country. For example, Arizona enables our brave military men and women overseas to vote online by uploading completed ballots to the Arizona Secretary of State’s website. What can we learn from Arizona as well as other state and local governments and other groups looking at this important issue?
  • Online Government Hearings and Online Town Hall Meetings: The proliferation of Internet-based tools and high speed technologies enable high quality video and new venues for civic participation. Can we apply these technologies to government hearings and online town hall meetings? What examples do we have of integrating new technologies to enable citizens to better engage their government?
We hope that you will take the time to share your opinions, examples, and data with us regarding these important topics. For more details, background and context, please see the Public Notice. Please respond with your ideas to this blog post, or file your comments using our Electronic Filing Comment System, using either ECFS Express or our standard submission page if you need to attach a file. Please title comments and reply comments responsive to this Notice as “Comments (or Reply Comments) – NBP Public Notice # 20.”

2 Responses to “Digital Democracy Public Notice”

  1. Guest says:

    Regarding Registering to Vote: We can learn from Travis County, Texas, that if we make voter registration online, anyone can do it... as many times as they want... with any stolen information and probably even false information. As if we didn't already have a bad enough time with the voter fraud accusations with ACORN this past election WITHOUT using computers. I'm not saying making voter registration online will make a new problem - it will just make an existing problem even easier.

    Regarding Processes Leading up to Election Day: Best thing is allowing access to information regarding candidates. Library of Congress website was an incredible resource during this past election for checking on the candidates ACTUAL political history by reviewing how they voted on various things in Congressional sessions. Making resources like that more publically visible might improve voting results (people voting more on reality and less on party lines). I know online lists of all the propositions that are up on the ballot was also helpful, including the complete text of a proposition. The more RAW information available (unfiltered, straight texts as they are to be implemented) for review by the public and the more the public knows about them, the better off we are as a nation. Maybe people will start to think for themselves more instead of just reiterating what their favorite sensationalist news network is spouting off or their favorite radio host is telling them to think. People have a right to know where to find the information that's important to them, not just having access to something they can't find.

    Regarding Voting: As far as voting online in these pilot programs - I have family overseas in the war that is a registered voter in Arizona and their ballot wasn't counted because there were enough votes to make a "clear determination" without counting his ballot. This is not true democracy. A real democracy would count every vote in the nation instead of using our current system of population points and boundaries. If 51% of the American population voted for Obama and 49% voted for McCain, Obama should win because THE PEOPLE voted for him. Currently, if 1000 people in District "A" vote for Obama and 500 people in District "B" vote for McCain, the vote remains at 1 to 1 because each district gets 1 vote. It was a great system before the technological revolutions - but now we should move towards a pure democracy when it comes to voting for our president, senators, and house members.

    Regarding Online Government Hearings and Online Town Hall Meetings: These have been a great method for people to become more involved in politics and see a little more of what's going on in their country. What we need to ensure is that we do not slip into a government media network where the government controls the flow of information and suppresses opposition. We are the United States of America, we are NOT China, North Korea, or a myriad of other nations which filter, suppress, and control the flow of information. This is a key issue I have with a government run nationwide broadband network as well - the issues of freedom are at risk when the government is given control over the people instead of BY THE PEOPLE.

  2. Guest says:

    NO to online voter registration and online voting! The rislk is too great for fraud. The Electronic Age is great in many respects (disemminating information, etc.), but not for things that are highly sensitive or as important as voting.

    I also dislike online town halls. Some of my state legislators do this, and I find it less personal. I would much rather see them face-to-face and I think it makes them more accountable.

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