Amazon Alexa devices will let users donate to 2020 presidential candidates

Amazon has announced a September 25 hardware event that will likely mark the release of new Echo and Alexa-enabled products.

Today’s political climate is motivating people to get out and take action in more ways than ever before. Now, Amazon is giving users of its Alexa devices a way to make a difference without leaving the house. Actually, they don’t even need to leave the couch.

Starting Thursday, Alexa devices will allow users to make campaign donations to several 2020 presidential candidates. Interestingly, the company will limit the feature to those it believes are “principal campaign committees.”

This is somewhat concerning since it hasn’t defined what exactly this means. Nonetheless, the move will give users a convenient, quick way to make a campaign donation.

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“Alexa, Make a Donation to…”

Amazon’s new feature comes as a bit of a surprise considering the controversy surrounding the use of technology in the 2016 elections. Of course, making a campaign donation with Alexa is a lot different than the misinformation running rampant on Facebook at that time.

In order to be eligible for the feature, candidates need to set up a merchant page with Amazon. From there, they’ll need to submit the appropriate Federal Election Commission (FEC) forms to prove that they are actually a candidate. They will also have the choice of adding variations of their name that users can say to direct their donation.

For example, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders often goes by simply “Bernie” or “Senator Sanders.”

Once the candidate has their page set up, users can say, “Alexa, make a campaign donation to Bernie Sanders.” Or, “Alexa, donate $25 to Bernie’s campaign.”

Users will be able to donate any amount between $5 and $200 to the campaign of their choosing. All payments will go through Amazon Pay via the user’s credit card or bank account on file.

Meaningful Action or Publicity Stunt

While it’s easy to see why supporters would want such an easy way to make political donations, it does raise some concerns. For one, Amazon will be collecting a processing fee of 2.9 percent plus 30 cents from every donation. With people across the country supporting candidates through their Alexa devices, that will add up quickly.

This leads some to wonder if Amazon is really trying to do good with the feature or if it is just a cash-grabbing publicity stunt.

Meanwhile, others are considering the legal implications of the new donation method. For example, does the system have a way of confirming that the person making a donation is at least 18 and is a U.S. citizen? Does it have a way to screen donations from people who might not be allowed to support a campaign?

As the FEC is currently not operating thanks to a loss of quorum, overseeing the new feature will be tricky. Considering the high stakes of 2020’s presidential election, Amazon might want to cross its T’s and dot its I’s to ensure it doesn’t find itself in hot water.