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Voting Vans --- REFINEMENT

Vans equipped with electronic voting machines could make scheduled stops at hospitals and rehab centers allowing people with disabilities to conveniently participate in the voting process.

Photo of Priyanka Kodikal

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Many people, especially those with some kind of disability, find it challenging to vote. Voting vans could help make the process more accessible and let the people actually experience voting. The vans, equipped with electronic voting systems, could make scheduled stops at hospitals, care centers, and special need schools, thereby giving people with special needs the opportunity to cast their ballots. The “Let the app suggest” concept could work well in this case. The vans would be staffed with a few poll workers and perhaps a security guard. The poll workers could work alongside the hospital/school staff to ensure the ballots are cast accurately and privately.


Building the Van

One option is to build vans specifically for this concept. The vans would have fewer seats and more room to maneuver wheelchairs/scooters. The vans could actually have booth structures and temporarily fitted voting machines. The vans would feel more airy and comfortable. In addition to in-van voting, the poll workers could also carry a few EZ Ballots or laptops to help those who cannot make it to the van.


  • Booth structures to ensure privacy
  • Electronic voting machines (computers) with accessible keyboards
  • Headphones and mic
  • Wireless connection and location tracking device
  • EZ Ballots or laptops

The one caveat here is the price. This could be a costly project, especially at a prototyping stage.

A way to offset the cost and increase van use would be to lease these vans to other city initiatives such as a mobile library, mobile test center, etc… during election off seasons.


Another option is to leverage public transport such as buses and shuttles. Although this is a cheaper option, it has some limitations. Due to many seats, maneuvering wheelchairs and scooters may become difficult. This means only one or two people may be able to vote at a given time. Also, it may be challenging to add temporary booth structures and voting computers. The poll workers would primarily have to depend on portable polling options such as laptops and privacy screens. However, if alternate rows of seats could be temporarily dismantled, these buses could be more effective.


  • Portable voting systems (tablets/laptop computers) with privacy screens.
  • Headphones and mic
  • Wireless connection and location tracking device

This option could prove more cost effective at a prototyping stage.



is a woman in her 30’s who runs her own business. She has been blind since birth. She employs a “reader” who reads print materials to her. However, she uses a computer independently and prefers that method for accessing information. Tasha has heard about the voting van on the radio and that the van’s website is designed for accessibility and provides location tracking/schedules based on one’s zip code.

  • She checks the website to find a van near her
  • She learns that a voting van is scheduled to make a stop at the school for the visually impaired, which is about a mile away from her place.
  • But Tasha is a bit nervous, so she asks her “reader” to go along
  • Both catch a ride to the school and Tasha
  • There are 8 people ahead of Tasha and she patiently awaits her turn.
  • As she waits, a poll worker walks her through the process of casting a ballot in the van
  • Poll worker assists Tasha to the van
  • Tasha casts her ballot firsthand with some assistance.
  • Poll worker offers the “reader” an opportunity to cast her ballot as well

Charlie has autism. He is high-functioning and is able to read well. He spends his day at a special school. The van is here to help Charlie and others at the school cast their ballots.
  • Poll workers help Charlie and one more person to the bright and airy van
  • A teacher, who Charlie knows well, goes along to make Charlie comfortable in this unfamiliar situation
  • Teacher assists poll worker in walking Charlie through the voting app
  • After Charlie casts his ballot, the teacher diverts his attention and helps him back to the school

George is a retiree who has MS that affects his memory and his mobility. He lives in a retirement nursing home attached to a hospital. A voting van is scheduled to spend the day at the hospital. The nursing home assists the retirees to the van.
  • Caregiver wheels George to the van
  • Poll worker helps George understand how the system works
  • George sits at the private polling booth and puts on headphones
  • Poll worker pulls the privacy screen
  • He can hear step by step directions as he makes progress

However, George’s friend Jim, has sustained an injury and cannot make it to the van. In this case, the poll worker can take the portable laptop/tablet and a pop-up privacy screen to Jim and help him cast his ballot.

How will this concept improve election accessibility for everyone?

This process need not be limited to people with disabilities. Just as mobile blood banks, the van could also be setup as a temporary full day polling station to include caregivers, doctors, and visitors, enabling these individuals to cast their votes without having to get away from the facility for long. This could work well for larger hospitals and could be used in combination with voting centers during an early voting period. This concept is fairly scalable and is not restricted to hospitals. It offers convenient way for anyone who wants to vote. It eliminates the use of paper ballots by installing electronic machines thereby improving security. For example, the van could make stops at schools allowing teachers and staff to vote on campus. The van location could be tracked using a simple website so people could vote at a van near them. Although the van enhances convenience, it is much about employing empathetic people who make the experience positive and memorable.

How well does this concept adapt to the changing needs of different voter communities?

The van makes it very convenient for communities and people outside of nursing homes and special schools. This concept is very scalable, and depending on the number of vans and demand, the van could make stops around residential communities. Communities could organize #votepools to transport the elderly and those with special needs to the van.

What kinds of resources – whether time, money, people, partnerships, technology or otherwise – will be needed to get this concept off the ground?

This would need to be a city/county initiative with no strings attached to any political groups. The city would need to build a team of designers, engineers, and administrative staff to realize this concept. The city could consider partnering with tech companies to help outfit the vehicles. This could be a part of a CSR program and could gain goodwill in the community. Every van would need a skilled worker who could assist with technical difficulties and security personnel to ensure safety. The city could also team up with local nonprofits to get volunteers to work the van as poll workers, or hire people to work as poll workers.

My Virtual Team

Ashley Jablow Natalia Pachón Whitney Quesenbery Cansu Akarsu Vicenç Àlvaro Martha McGill Vincent Cheng Meena Kadri Ramanand J Rebekah Emanuel Alvin Tai Eduardo Cajavilca Jeffery Jones Suilen O'Neill Paul Reader Anne-Laure Fayard Christopher Ho Tracy Verrett Keith McConn Yarun Luon


Join the conversation:

Photo of Edmund Ng

On paper it sounds like a great idea but economically it might not be viable. Especially in areas like the United States where it's so huge. You'll probably need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase these voting vans.

More importantly it is not easy maintaining these vehicles and you will need to find parking spaces for it as well, leading to a lot of maintenance costs.

It's much more cost effective to just do the voting in schools which are free of charge. You'll also be able to get lot's of volunteers for the election process.

Edmund Ng

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