In today's era of Occupy Wall Streeters and Tea Partiers, it may be hard to convince some rightfully indignant Americans to "like" either candidate in this fall's election. Perpetually bright promises in recent decades, along with perpetually disappointing results, have led some Americans to question whether they should even vote at all.
But the fundamental mechanism of change in a free and democratic society is the right to vote for our elected officials. If people want change, they cannot merely bellyache and bemoan their fate. They must take action and vote for somebody.
The Census Bureau reported in 2008 that 131 million Americans turned out to vote in that year's presidential election. That may sound like a lot of people, but consider that the nation had about 304 million citizens, according to that year's figures. About 80 million of those citizens were not of voting age, so that leaves us about 220 million voting-age Americans.
In other words, about 60 percent of Americans who could vote in 2008 did vote. That may not seem bad, but consider that in other developed nations, like Sweden, voter turnout is close to 80 percent of eligible voters.
That's where the Internet should come in.
In my opinion, the key to breaking Americans' apathy is engagement. Recent efforts like the campaign to stop SOPA showed that Facebook can transform from a simple social networking tool to a platform for political action.
We live in a digital era, but our voting is still in the virtual Stone Age. Most of us have to drive during designated hours to a polling location. Many who don't vote miss out because they are working long shifts or face a long commute.
That's why I think voters need to be given the opportunity to cast their ballots on a secure, online platform. Here's where I propose something that may be controversial. I'd like to see the government partner with Facebook and allow voting via a secure Facebook app.
The state of Washington recently initiated a project that lets citizens register to vote via Facebook. Nine other states support some form of online voter registration, which is just a step away from voting, and I feel that online voting is a logical next step.
And as Washington State decided, Facebook is the perfect fit for connecting voters, given its ubiquity in the US. The government regularly contracts thousands of major technology firms to handle vital infrastructure. And when it comes to voting, you could not find a much more ideal platform than Facebook.
Each year, about 15 percent more Americans "plug in" to Facebook, and last year, the percentage of Americans enrolled on the platform was around 51 percent. In other words, there are probably as many American adults on Facebook as there are American adults who vote. What's more, 78 million adults regularly use Facebook on a mobile device.
Facebook has a number of advantages. First, it's preexisting. The government could direct users to a voting app with far less expense and overhead than other kinds of advertisements. Second, it's relatively secure. Users must list their real names and are only allowed one account. Account verification and security are both addressed vigorously.
It's tempting to think that Facebook voting could lead to more voter fraud, but that wouldn't necessarily be the case. There's plenty of voter fraud problems in the real world, too, so why should we jump to the conclusion that digital voting would be worse? It might in fact be less prone to fraud.
America needs to be a world leader in technology and allow voters to cast their ballots online. Doing so not only will increase participation, but also will allow Americans to connect with one another to discuss candidates and issues. And Facebook is the perfect fit for a secure, largely pre-built platform on which to place such an historic effort.
— Jason Mick is senior news editor at the independent tech news site DailyTech.