Experts: Technology and youth dominating the voting realm

By Kathleen E. Carey

PHILADELPHIA >> A panel of U.S. representatives addressed how technology plays in their governing and why it’s important to be civically engaged from emailing to voting at a forum sponsored by SAP.

Called the “We the Future Summit,” the event at the National Constitution Center Tuesday was geared towards Millennial attendees, those 18- to 24-years-old in how they can help shape their lives.

Present at the forum was U.S. Reps. Brendan Boyle, D-13, of Philadelphia, Ruben Gallego, D-7, of Phoenix, Ariz., Joseph Kennedy, D-4, of Plymouth County, Mass. and Eric Swalwell, D-15, of Pleasanton, Calif.

They described voting as the “ultimate consumer feedback.”

“The decisions are made by those who opt to show up,” Boyle told them, as he referenced Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech about the critic versus the man in the ring.

Building on that, he said it’s easy to be apathetic and to criticize and that it’s much harder to believe in something, have passion and take action.

“Do not take the easy path,” he advised.

During the discussion moderated by actor Kal Penn, Boyle also spoke about how he needs to telephone his older constituents while younger people prefer email and text.

“It’s really the mode of comfort,” he explained.

Kennedy, like the other legislators, admitted that technology at the U.S. Congressional level needs to improve, but also said it needs incentive.

“Government would do a lot better with technology if young people voted,” he said. “It’s the single best thing you can do.”

He said he supported building more transparency, accountability and trust within the system with an engaged citizenry.

However, the legislators agreed that government has to follow business’ lead in improving how they provide for the needs of their customer.

“We need to get better at addressing the concerns of our constituents,” Kennedy said.

One way to open a discussion is through technology, Swalwell said, giving the example of live streaming House actions and receiving thousands of comments on it instantaneously.

“It’s now become a two-way conversation,” he said.

Swalwell said he’d like to see two-year sabbaticals available where people in technology offer their expertise to the federal government to help modernize the system.

In addition, he said he’d like to start moving towards mobile, online voting in a way that people can have confidence in it.

“We have to think big,” Swalwell said.