Today we travel to a future where America has converted to a direct democracy. Everybody votes on everything!
Hey, did you know it was an election year in the United States? I know, you've probably not really heard about this, it's not like it's on the news 24/7. But for all the coverage and the fights you might be getting into on Facebook, tons of people in the United States aren't going to vote in this election. The Pew Research Center has some pretty depressing statistics on just how many Americans go to the polls every year.
People in the U.S. don't vote for a lot of reasons. The main one is time. But the second most common answer (16 percent) that Americans give, when asked by the Census Bureau why they don't vote, is that they weren't interested. And eight percent of people said they didn't vote because they didn't like the candidates or the issues.
It's no secret that Americans hate their government. In 2015, a Gallup poll estimated that only eight percent of Americans have faith in Congress as an institution. Eight percent!
So what if we did things differently? What if we put the vote back to the people, and had Americans actually vote on the issues directly. What if America was a direct democracy?
To find out what might happen we talked to Kerri Milita, an assistant professor at Illinois State University who studies direct democracy in America.
We also talked to talked to Daniel Castro who's the vice president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation about what an accessible voting app would look like. A few years ago, they looked at accessible voting technology, and found that when you can let people vote on their own apps in their own places that are already safe and customized to them makes a big difference.
So let’s say that this all works perfectly. Just go with me to the utopia for a second. Everything works really great, everybody is happy, we’re all securely and safely writing bills and voting on our phones. And because there are no barriers to voting anymore, turnout and participation skyrockets. Now, most people vote! Yay! What does that United States look like when all the people who don't vote today, start voting.
To find out, we called Sean McElwee, a policy analyst for an organization called Demos. Sean told us about his research on the differing opinions between voters and non-voters, which you can read here.
We also talk about security and voting, and what happens if nobody actually votes because they're overwhelmed.
We didn't get to talk about a few things in the show. Like how Sweden uses direct democracy, why Estonia has online voting and we don't, the history of direct democracy, or the proposals to change the forms of democracy we see in the United States.
What do you think? Do you vote yes or no on direct democracy? Tell us! Send us a voice memo to email@example.com or call and leave a voicemail at (347) 927-1425.
Flash Forward is produced by me, Rose Eveleth, and is part of the Boing Boing podcast family. The intro music is by Asura, the break music is by MC Cullah and the outtro music is by Broke for Free. The episode art is by Matt Lubchansky. Special thanks this week to Dara Lind, who suggested this episode, and Rob Tannen, who provided valuable insight into election app design.
If you want to suggest a future we should take on, send us a note on Twitter, Facebook or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love hearing your ideas! And if you think you’ve spotted one of the little references I’ve hidden in the episode, email us there too. If you’re right, I’ll send you something cool.
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