Digital Voting

 

Earth 2044

In 25 Sols, Martian colonists will convene to discuss the implementation of Digital Voting and other digital political instruments on Mars. Many countries on Earth have implimented Digital Voting in the last two decades.

The following is Passage Two of a Three Passage series on digital political instruments and their cataclysmic effect on elections.

 The majority of democracies on Earth have adopted some for of Digital Voting. Martian colonists are currently debating the implementation of such technologies in the planet's own democratic process. Rendering by Svetazi.

The majority of democracies on Earth have adopted some for of Digital Voting. Martian colonists are currently debating the implementation of such technologies in the planet's own democratic process. Rendering by Svetazi.

*

Sophisticated voter targeting efforts had a critical impact on the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. In fact, President Isenberg even stated that “voter targeting technology was the single most important non-candidate factor in the national election.” Since 2020, most developed democracies embraced digital political instruments, such as Digital Voting, direct-to-voter messaging, targeted political advertisements, and digital census data collection. 

Digital Voting refers to individuals voting in democratic elections using personal devices, such as smartphones with biometric identification capabilities.

China and India are two notable exceptions to the adoption of Digital Voting in national elections. Although both nations have high smartphone penetration (with over 94% of the adult population using a smartphone), the Chinese government prioritized control over political messaging and propaganda rather than placing digital political instruments in the hands of its voters. On the other hand, India has actively explored the use of Digital Voting, and digital census data collection; however, there was little concentrated political effort at the national level to implement such instruments. Indian public officials have also expressed their disapproval of Digital Voting, as politicians feel that the technology would diminish influence over their constituency.

In comparison to most modern democracies that have implemented Digital Voting, the United States experienced the most political polarization and visceral public reaction against digital political instruments. During Isenberg’s two terms as President, support for Digital Voting remarkably swung from Democrats to Republicans. 

*

A Democratic Embrace

President Isenberg’s political platform advocated for the implementation of Digital Voting in U.S. elections. In the first two years of the Isenberg Presidency, many historically blue states implemented Digital Voting in local elections. The ability to vote on smartphones generated higher voter turnouts, especially for local elections that usually have low voter participation.

The DV Act allowed Digital Voting in national elections and the FEC was given the power to regulate Digital Voting.

Prior to the 2024 Presidential Election, a Democratic majority in Congress passed the Digital Voting Regulation Act (“DV Act”)—the DV Act allowed Digital Voting in national elections (in states that were technologically capable) and the Federal Election Commission was given the power to regulate Digital Voting. Digital Voting required a more rigorous voter registration process, to ensure that a citizen’s vote-capable device identifies the correct voter. Facial recognition hardware and software on smartphones was paired with traditional identification methods (SSN, Password, Fingerprint, and Verification Questions) to allow a citizen to exercise their right to vote in the comfort of their home or office. Digital Voting never replaced traditional voting in polling locations; however, it did provide an alternative voting method that increased voter registration by at least 20% in states that adopted the technology. 

Digital Voting had a significant impact on voter turnout in blue states.

The 2024 election was the first U.S. Presidential Election that allowed Digital Voting, although only a dozen blue states qualified for Digital Voting, under FEC guidelines. The Democratic party allowed Digital Voting across all 50 states for the Democratic Party Primaries. Due to the implementation in Digital Voting, President Isenberg won 2024 reelection with a higher popular vote count than his first-term election. As expected, Digital Voting had a significant impact on voter turnout in blue states, with as much as a 28% increase in votes in Washington, California, Oregon, and Minnesota.

*

The New Luddite Movement

The day after the 2024 Presidential Election, Senator Sarah Folk (R-Virginia) started the New Luddite Movement with the symbolic smashing of a million smartphones in the National Mall. A growing faction in the Republican Party was threatened by Digital Voting, after witnessing higher voter turnouts in blue states that enabled the technology. The New Luddite Movement is an American conservative movement, strongly affiliated with the conservative, nationalist wing of the Republican party. Senator Folk and other New Luddites have called for the elimination of Digital Voting, in order to reduce perceived voter fraud. During a rally in North Carolina, Senator Folk stated that "Digital Voting has given our sacred privilege of voting to the illegal immigrants. Digital Voting is the easiest way for immigrants to vote, and it is a danger to our democracy." 

The New Luddite Movement’s claims concerning voter fraud were completely false and unfounded.

The New Luddite Movement’s claims concerning voter fraud were completely false and unfounded, as Digital Voting technology proved to be a near-perfect biometric authentication method. Due to the FEC’s regulation of Digital Voting, the accuracy of the technology, and the rigorous voter-registration process, independent experts identified that Digital Voting had virtually no chance of being an instrument for electoral fraud. Nevertheless, the New Luddite Movement gained significant traction, as many Republican Senators in Southern-border states (Ex. Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas) used the grassroots Movement to fuel their anti-immigration rhetoric.

*

A Republican Strategy

Despite the New Luddite Movement gaining influence in the Republican Party, there was also a group of Republican Senators that were advocating for the opposite—the implementation of Digital Voting in their states. Several policy institutes and think tanks simulated the effects of Digital Voting in traditionally red states, and these projections surprisingly predicted even stronger Republican victories in the Appalachian States, Utah, Montana, and Florida.

By implementing Digital Voting in these states, Republicans increased voter turnout in low income, conservative, and rural communities.

By implementing Digital Voting in these states, Republicans increased voter turnout in low income, conservative, and rural communities. Many of these communities lacked a structured central interest, such as a church with high attendance, to enable congregation and communion. The best way to communicate with these rural voters was through digital communications. Many Republicans saw the value of using digital political instruments, such as voter targeting and direct-to-voter communications that pushed news, campaign events, and information about laws that will affect constituents directly to their phones. Republicans in West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, Montana, Florida, and Michigan began to rapidly introduce Digital Voting in their states.

Within two years of President Isenberg’s reelection in 2024, the Republican Party took an organized, selective implementation of Digital Voting in traditionally red states—the Party fought vehemently against Digital Voting in border states with high immigrant populations, while enabling the technology in states with untapped rural, conservative communities.

Although Digital Voting began as a nationwide Democratic Party initiative, the technology soon became a powerful tool for Republicans. By the end of the Isenberg Presidency, the Republican Party leveraged a grassroots movement and predictive analysis to empower their selective application of Digital Voting in certain states. This strategic approach led to a Republican majority in Congress in 2026, the election of a Republican President in 2028, and the Democrats reversing their support for Digital Voting throughout the following decade.

* * *

A retrospective on how U.S. corporations manipulated voters using digital political instruments will be covered in Passage Three of this Three Passage series.

*

Athena has been a writer for The Martian Passage since 2028. She writes about politics and government.