Voting is a fundamental civic right. Not so many people would openly disagree with such a statement. It is also obvious that voting is an immanent part of democracy. More fundamental facts read here. As much as we think about improving the current political system, we should also confront ourselves with some visionary predictions about what voting and elections in general should look like in the future. On the other hand: is this the right moment to implement innovations in this field? Can we come up with an accurate response to the challenges we are facing in the current political situation?

According to the survey conducted by the National Democratic Institute among young people in the age group of 16-29 in Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, on average 66% of them voted in the national elections – this average percentage, however, may be misleading. While in Poland 76% of voters took part in the elections, in Hungary it was 67% and only 53% in Slovakia. Are young people who will be those “future voters” so different or the political context in each of the countries forced them to make such decisions?

Voting is a process, not an act

To discuss these and other questions on the future of voting we gathered at PDF CEE 2018 V4 workshop experts from various countries with the strongest representation of the Visegrad Group countries. In the session, we had a chance to discuss the future environment of elections and voting including applying digital technologies as well as the role of civil society and other stakeholders. Although participants of the workshop were mainly digital activists, the majority of them agreed that shaping the future of voting is not only the question of applying technologies. It is, in the first place, the matter of rethinking the system.

In order to understand V4 young voters’ attitudes we must look deeper into the political and socio-economical context, or actually how the context is understood by them. Voting is only one of many ways of political engagement but it seems that they are all interconnected. Thanks to the NDI survey we can observe a similar phenomenon through the percentage of those signing a petition offline (HU 19%, PL 64% SK 41%), online (HU 13%, PL 44%, SK 27% ) or publicly expressing their political stance (HU 6%, PL 47% , SK 19%). Through those numbers we can see that it is not a matter of deploying digital solutions, especially that more young people prefered to sign the offline petition rather than its digital equivalent. It seems that, in the first place we are witnessing the crisis of democratic values. 22% of young Hungarians, 8% of Poles and 11% of Slovaks are ready to scarify some of the democratic principles to have higher standards of living.

How to make it easier and more effective?

Taking into consideration some voices in the room convincing that lack of trust in democracy can be tackled by implementing digital solution (eg. by Feng Hao from the Newcastle University or an Estonian NGO’s representative), the participants have agreed that this is a solution which may increase the turnout but in a very limited way, supporting those who are abroad or are used to devote small amount of time to political activities. Thanks to the presence of Sam Chang from the Negative Vote Association we could learn more on the idea of not only voting for a politician but also against him. According to Mr Chang, this negative approach might be a good reason for people disappointed with existing political parties to take part in elections and make their opinions visible. Certainly, the concept needs more in-depth discussion but at the end, the majority of the participants’ recipes laid somewhere else: in engaging young people in public activities on the local level. This is less abstract and gives the feeling of having more influence on their closest environment. However, how to do it is still the million dollar question. But it seems like a direction to follow by the civic tech community in V4 countries.

The path to follow

The context of elections is much more complex than it is possible to conclude during a merely 1.5h workshop but the first step is to crowdsource the proper diagnoses and describe potential paths to be followed up. With the presence of most of stakeholders and debating various options. Because we all believe that there is a future in voting.