All good business ideas typically stem from a pressing need.
For Democracy Live, the push for online balloting began after the 2000 Bush-Gore, hanging-chad debacle that left voters angry and confused.
“It was clear we were not able to get the foundation of our democracy right, which is to count a ballot and to get it counted right,” said Bryan Finney, the company’s founder.
While the company is preparing for the inevitable, online voting, it’s establishing itself in the market by creating online ballots for people to print and mail.
The company got itself noticed in the past year with a half-million dollar grant from the Department of Defense and an Innovation in Issaquah Award from the chamber Jan. 25.
Opening its doors in 2008, the 17-employee company is now working with 259 counties across the United States to provide customizable sites, which are all hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud server. The product is called LiveBallot.
So far, the closest any county has gotten to being comfortable with online voting is allowing people to fill in the ballot online, PDF it, and e-mail it in with a partial Social Security number or pin.
Soldiers serving overseas, who often don’t get ballots in time to vote, are the major group the company is aiming at helping, Finney said. “The voter who is fighting for our right to vote is disenfranchised.”
In the November election, those soldiers who were from participating counties were able to print the ballot from base and ship it home.
The DoD grant came from the 2010 MOVE Act, which was aimed at making voting easier for those living and serving abroad.
LiveBallot also benefits the blind, who with the right technology can fill out a ballot on their own and mail it in.
Today, most blind voters have to have someone fill out a ballot on their behalf.
Once people are comfortable with the idea of online ballots, and the politics are in the right place, voting could eventually move mostly to the web, Finney said. “The younger generation is going to demand it.”
The company also recently launched Democracy 360, which allows candidates to post videos and voter pamphlet information beside the ballot checkbox.
“They have identified a niche and have pursued that niche for the last five year, and that niche is moving elections to the digital age, access and accountability,” said Matthew Bott, president of Issaquah chamber.