March 3

How to Use Your Website for Better Elections

Author: Scott M. Field

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With Super Tuesday upon us and the election cycle in full swing for 2020, you may be wondering how you can use your website to better facilitate the upcoming elections. There are a few simple things that you can do to help inform local citizens, provide updated information, and stay secure.

 Let’s start with using or switching to a .gov domain. Domains ending with .gov are provided by the federal government and help identify legitimate government services, from federal agencies to local municipalities. A recent study of counties done by McAfee in 13 battleground election states found that only 17% of them had a .gov domain. Websites ending in .com, .net, or .org do not require any evidence to setup, meaning that anyone could potentially spoof an official website if they wanted to. Since .gov domains are controlled by the federal government, this lets your users know that when they are on a .gov site they can be sure what they are looking at is official. Getting and setting up a .gov website can take more time and does have a higher cost than other domains but it is worth it in the end. The DOTGOV Act of 2019 would dramatically cut the cost of a .gov domain or even make it free, but it still has to make its way through Senate.

 Although setting up a .gov site takes time, there are other things you can do to better secure your site right now. One is to install an SSL certificate to encrypt your site’s traffic. An SSL certificate will switch your site from HTTP to HTTPS. Many internet browsers today will alert users or even block traffic to sites that do not have an active SSL certificate, making visitors skeptical of the very information they are looking at. If your site still does not have encryption, you are behind the curve and doing a disservice to the citizens who visit your website to stay up-to-date. Encryption is no longer a luxury but the standard.

 While the previous two tips focus on the legitimacy and security of your site, our final tip focuses on what is featured on your site. Making sure you have correct and updated information on your website is the biggest service you can do for your community. As election dates get closer, more people will visit your site looking for information on when, where, and how to vote, along with many other common election questions. Creating a subpage of your website that focuses on these specific questions is the way to go. There are many tools that allow users to enter their information to find out where and when they can vote, if and how they can register, and much more. You should also reflect this information on all official social media channels and keep them updated whenever there may be changes. One other thing you may want to feature is current vote counts and election results. With some of the challenges we have faced during this year’s primaries, keeping people informed on what is going on is now more vital than ever.

 Remember that these tips, while important during an election year, are useful no matter the time and should be implemented as soon as possible. Your constituents put their trust in you to provide them with the most secure and current information on your website, let’s not let them down.

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