Using Technology to Provide Low-Cost Union Elections
Once a government union comes to power, it can stay in power for an indefinite length of time. Public employees such as teachers and firefighters are trapped by labor laws that unionize a workplace after a one-man, one-vote, one-time election. In our newest study, The Low Cost of Labor Reform, we show how Missouri can provide public employees the ability to replace or retain their union every few years with union elections.
Last year the Missouri legislature considered a few bills that would’ve done this. Unfortunately the fiscal notes associated with these bills (basically a price tag for a new law) indicated that the elections would cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. One of the problems with these analyses was the assumption that elections would have to be conducted by traditional ballots, manned by hundreds of temporary employees hired just for elections. Modern technology makes this unnecessary.
With traditional voting, paid or volunteer workers need to be on location working polls. Moreover, specialized voting equipment needs to be at every polling location. Telephone- and internet-based voting solve these issues. With telephone and internet voting, personnel do not need to be at every polling location, and the voting equipment is nothing more than a telephone or personal computer. A voter just dials a number or goes to a website, enters a PIN or password, and votes at his or her convenience.
Telephone- and internet-based voting give voters greater flexibility. Not only can you vote from anywhere with an internet connection or mobile phone reception, but polls can remain open longer without significantly increasing costs. Imagine having a week to vote and being able to vote late at night or early in the morning. Much better than heading to a poll, parking, standing in line, and then rushing back to the office.
Security is an issue with telephone- and internet-based voting, just as it is with traditional voting, but internet voting can be encrypted. 256-bit encryption, the same encryption many major banks use, is as cost effective as it is secure.
Price doesn’t have to stand in the way of a policy that would empower government workers. If we’re forward thinking and embrace technological innovation, union elections can held at a reasonable cost.