Voter Registration? There's An App For That

By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
June 06, 2012

Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
The Evotee app allows users to answer all the required questions for voter registration.
As one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the country, Latinos simply can’t be ignored by either major political party.

But before they can go to the polls in support of either party, Latinos first need to be a registered voters. So voter registration drives are active across the country -- especially in battleground states.  And there's a new gadget that could speed up the process.

Jason Libersky is a deputy voter agent in New Mexico. He spends much of his time at community events throughout Albuquerque registering people to vote using an iPad application he created — the Evotee.

While sitting in a Central New Mexico Community College classroom he explains how the Evotee app works. 

"I’ve always had a passion for politics, but not necessarily participating in it as much as I should. And when I realized what those hurdles were to my participation is when I started thinking of things like a voter registration app," Libersky said.

The Evotee app is used on an iPad. It’s an electronic voter registration form that compiles essential data, like date of birth and Social Security Number. It also attaches copies of supporting documents like a picture of an ID. And the form can be signed on the tablet.

With a click of a button the information is electronically sent directly to the voter registration office. For Libersky this new mobile application means more people, in more remote communities, have a chance of registering to vote.   

"Society is now moving at the speed of information and government’s not," Libersky said. "And, so, I was looking for ways to improve the process and facilitate communication between citizens, politicians and government."

That’s what caught the attention of the clerk's office in Bernalillo County, where Libersky lives. Like most counties, Bernalillo has a voter registration form that must be completed, signed and mailed. So, when county officials learned about Evotee earlier this year, they decided to test it.

Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
Jason Libersky, a deputy voter agent in New Mexico, developed the Evotee app for iPad.

"It’s been real exciting and nice to see these applications coming in," said County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver. She said the app has become the preferred way for registering future voters.

"Anything that we as election officials can be doing to encourage, simplify, and break down the barriers to the election process is and should be our priority."

One person who agrees with this way of thinking is DeeDee Garcia Blase, the co-founder of the Arizona-based National Tequila Party Movement, a Latino political organization.

"This is our technological, revolutionary way of overcoming the hurdles that the Republican Party is setting before us," Garcia Blase said.

Arizona’s voter registration form can be completed online. But you have to have a proof of citizenship -- like a state ID or a driver's license. Without that, the voter has to present other ID, like a passport or a birth certificate, in person.  

Promoters of the Evotee hope this new app, by taking a photo of alternative identification, will allow these voters quick, easy, online registration. So when Garcia Blase learned about Evotee earlier this year she got trained on how to use it -- and is now working to get it accepted for use in Arizona.

"We feel empowered with this iPad application," she said. "They can lay down bureaucratic laws and these red tape but we’re gonna plow through … like we’ve been."

But there may be some hurdles.

"While like it sounds like a wonderful idea for democracy in getting more people involved, we’re currently seeing, you know, a lot of push-back," said Matt Barreto of the political research firm Latino Decisions. He's talking about laws like the one in Arizona, and in other states like Texas, that make it more difficult to register voters. 

"I think they’re gonna be very reluctant to allow this technology to come in and say hey here’s a process that makes it very easy to register to vote," he said. Those states could reject Evotee, with a concern the app would be susceptible to ID fraud.

Now that Evotee has launched in Albuquerque, its security and effectiveness as a voter registration tool will be analyzed for future elections. The technology is a little bit ahead of its time, Barreto said.  Perhaps the real test will come in 2016.