Disruption and Innovation

While this pandemic has certainly hit some groups very hard — the restaurant industry, some school aged kids, vulnerable groups that depend on state services, just to name a few — other groups are doing quite well. Steve’s happy working from home. The building contractors tell me that they have never had more work.

It also is leading to changes, some of those good changes. With new early voting procedures in many states, 73 million people have already voted. That accounts for 53 percent of all the votes┬ácast in 2016. We are on track to have the highest voting numbers in modern times. (It’s hard to really calibrate voting totals from the 1800’s, because things didn’t always work properly back then.)

Typically, only about half of the US electorate casts their votes in presidential elections. Much less than countries like Germany, where 70 percent of the electorate votes. Some have said the low voter turnout in the US is due to the boringness of the two-party system. Others have pointed to voter suppression. Some say that it’s a sign of great contentedness of the population. Still others have said that it’s because unlike other countries, we don’t make it easy for people to vote. Folks don’t get the day off to cast their ballot, so many just can’t get to the polls on time.

Suddenly, things are easier here. The mail-in ballots have come early. They have lots of instructions. There are multiple ways to vote. My friends in New York say that they have been waiting online for hours to cast an early vote. In New Jersey, we’ll show up to the voting center with paper ballots already completed. Jonah put his in the mailbox ages ago. With so many people working from home and the schools closed on Election Day, it should be very easy to cast a ballot on the actual day.

If, and this is a big if, everything goes well and we don’t end up with a “hanging chad” problem, these changes to voting procedures is the biggest innovation to happen in voting in decades. These are positive changes that should remain permanent even long after the vaccine makes this virus go away.

Voting changes can’t be the only innovation that is happening now. Down the road, I can see opportunities to make real changes in schools, but I won’t talk about that today. What other innovations are you seeing in your communities and careers?