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App encourages voting through smartphones

Contributing Writer

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Updated: Saturday, April 28, 2012 12:04

The iPhone motto “There’s an app for that” continues to ring true as the list of capabilities for smartphones is ever expanding.

Now smartphone users can add to that list the ability to contact the Supervisor of Elections’ office for their county, no matter where they live in Florida, to check and update their voter registration status.

Florida citizens can download the Microsoft Tag application from their provider’s application service and scan the tag. Voters can enter their county of residence and choose among the options to connect with their county’s Supervisor of Elections office either by phone, email or in person.

This innovative election tool made its debut in October 2011. The League of Women Voters in Florida in conjunction with Microsoft Tag and the Supervisors of Elections from various Florida counties launched the new tag as a part of the “Be Ready to Vote” campaign. The main objective is to prepare voters to participate in all elections.

Almost every day, the UCF College Democrats can be found near the library helping students register to vote and pressing the issues with their trademark ironing board. Recently elected College Democrats President Aubrey Marks is excited by the new tool.

“I think it could really benefit students because first of all, a lot of people don’t know or they don’t think to update their address,” Marks said. “A lot of times when people are registering voters, they’ll ask a potential person ‘Are you registered to vote in your current address?’ and they’ll go ‘Oh no!’ Sometimes the last time someone registered was before they graduated high school.”

Freshman biology major Mary Figueroa understands the importance of students voting and has been registered since she’s been able to. However, Figueroa faces a challenge similar to most students. She is registered in her home county.

“As students, we’re all from different counties and we’re not in our right county,” Figueroa said. “Since I’m from Polk County I’m not going to drive two hours to vote. If I’m here during elections then I’ll just use that tag and that’ll be a lot easier.”

This fresh tag has an instant appeal for an upcoming tech savvy generation that is newly eligible to vote. For students like first year psychology major Melissa Perez, who is not registered to vote, this sounds like a time-saving device.

“I think that’s very advanced, very awesome that we’ve taken steps towards making it easier for students. There are a lot of kids that find it a hassle to want to vote,” Perez said. “I think it’s great because it makes it easier for those who are slacking and need to vote.”

Voter turnout statistics show that for the 2012 Florida Primary only 10,655 eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 25 participated. This proves once again that the 18- to 25-year-old demographic is the least motivated to show up at the polls on Election Day.

This technology also creates a new medium for elected officials when it comes to reaching students. Stay-at-home mom Stacy Perry is currently trying to get on the ballot as a non-affiliated candidate for the Florida House of Representatives District 49.

In order to do so, she needs the signatures of registered voters. Her attempts already include a similar tag to connect her campaign to her official Facebook page. She intends to reach non-registered voters by attaching the new tag to her new campaign posters in order to encourage students to register to vote.

“It makes me seem young and hip,” Perry said. “I don’t think anyone is going to pay attention to some old lady who comes down here asking for their signatures. At least they know I’ve been on the Internet before, I’ve seen smartphones, I somewhat know what they’re into.”

Freshman biology major Robert Rodriguez thinks this is the start of an evolution in voting that could eventually eliminate waiting in line at the polls altogether.

“It’s important because the majority of students don’t vote because they feel like their opinion doesn’t matter, if you really think about it, it’s pretty much our choice because we get to choose who [wins],” Rodriguez said. “I feel like it’s only a number of years before we actually can vote on a laptop and website, you might type in your social security number and something’s on your license and you’ll vote. I think in a couple years, that’s probably what we’ll be headed toward.”

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