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Voting via ATM network

Using the existing and ubiquitous ATM network, voters are identified (bank card pin + national identification number to ensure uniquness). Can vote directly or print a securely coded ballot to send or hand-in in person. ATMs are disabled friendly.

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Written by DeletedUser

"According to the U.S. Census, the most common reason people give for not voting is that they were too busy or had conflicting work or school schedules." Jeff Miller (Congressman)

The Need
US voter turnout is the lowest among its peers of developed countries at around 60% for a presidential election (just behind India). As indicated in the above quotation, a significant portion of those not voting do so because they consider themselves to be too busy doing something else. There is a need to re-enfranchise the busy politically inactive.

The idea
These busy politically inactive people will surely buy something with cash in the days and weeks leading up the the election. And to be sure this cash would have come from an ATM.

If the visit to an ATM could double as an opportunity to vote then a huge step would be taken in re-enfranchising this significant section of the population of the US.  

The ubiquity of ATMs 

There are around 170 Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) per 100,000 people in the United States. Only Canada and Portugal have a deeper penetration. ATM transactions in the US peaked in 2007 at around 15 billion. That is an average of around 80 transactions per ATM per day. Clearly in some city area they are far more heavily used. Indeed, with an average transaction length of 30 seconds, nearly 1,500 could be fitted into a twelve hour period per ATM. 

Let me restate these numbers: Boston has a population of around 590,000. It therefore probably has nearly 3,500 ATMs across the city. The entire city could use an ATM in a day using only around 11% capacity. Using ATMs as a means to vote could massively increase convenience and efficiency (especially if it need not just be on the day).

Network and identification

As is the case in most countries, ATMs in the US are linked to an interbank network that provide a highly reliable way of identifying the user. Basically, by putting in your card the ATM can access a load of information about you. 

The networks that ATMs tap into could also cross reference with other networks and personal information databases, such as the electoral registry. As such, when selecting the voting option (when voting is open), the user will have already have put in their bank pin. They would then be required to type some unique identification code - the last 4 digits of their Social Security Number (for example). Note: in Virginia the SSN is used, in other states, other forms of ID are used. A uniform solution would be to have the last 4 digits of whatever ID is used in that particular state and cross reference it to the electoral database.

This means that in order to vote the user gets past two levels of identification. Together this is secure and sufficient to recognize the user.

Voting via ATM - user experience

The ATM should be able draw on a database that knows where the voter is registered to vote. It could then pull up the details of the relevant candidates for their area. Voting for the selected candidates would be as easy as selecting $100 from your current account. 

As outlined in the images, there are often very many elections being contested on any particular day. The ATM would take the voter through each of these in order, with the voter making their selection by typing in a corresponding number to the candidate, pressing enter. They would be asked to confirm their choice in each case. Furthermore, at the end of all the voting they would be presented with all their choices and asked to confirm their overall selection. 

This would get round the famous errors of people not understanding the voting ballot and, by mistake, voting for the wrong person. Here the selection is confirmed several times.   

Send vote electronically or in the mail

Voting could either be done by selecting that the vote is carried instantly, electronically. A voting receipt would be printed (with choices scrambled in code). There is no reason why voters will ever need to unscramble this code (currently voters do not get such a record). The scrambled code could, however, be used for auditing purposes. 

When withdrawing cash, the data goes to the client's bank via secure servers. A secure server would be used to ensure the voting data appropriately goes to the relevant electoral sources.

Alternatively, the user use the ATM to print their voting choice. Again, this would be scrambled for anonymity. This voting slip could either be handed in on voting day in person or, if done several days before, simply put in the mail where it is delivered - with postage prepaid .

Automatic label readers are a very basic technology used in, for example, warehouses. These could be used to "count" the votes received by mail or in person. To be clear, this would be a matter of scanning the code where the reader interprets the code and sends the signal to the aggregated total. 
Additional benefits

The application of these basic technologies help ensure voting security because lost ballots are more easily accounted for (i.e. the delta between votes issues via the ATM and those counted). As the code is scrambled, a crooked voting counters are much less likely to "lose" the ballot, and double counting would cease to be possible as the scanner could recognize the unique code - much like a ticket on an airplane flashes green.

A further benefit is that ATMs have already been configured to be highly accessible for disabled people: for example, they contain headphone jacks and brail for the blind. Indeed, this might very well be the most anonymous way that blind people can vote. 

How will this concept improve election accessibility for everyone?

See above.

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

See above.

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

The greatest challenge is to link up the ATM interbank network with the electoral network. However, the ATM interbank network is about as sophisticated as it gets, so if anyone can do it, it is these guys.

My Virtual Team

MIT Sloan Design Club Brad Crane at IDEO


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Additionally, the video tape security from the atm is very nice for safety reason and has to vote text to your phone for confirmation just like when you successfully transfer the money.

On the other hand, this might congest the traffic for people who want to actually use the ATM so perhaps if you can make it a norm to have 2 voting days (say over the weekend) with periodic update on TV of how many people have voted and also area that there are a lot of unused atm, then it might be nice than to have to pay to make machines just for voting day

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Certainly envisaged that you could vote ahead of time (hence could choose the postal route). The electronic option would basically see your vote sit in an escrow until they are released for official counting (instant obviously) on the voting day.

Making voting more modern definitely has the possibility to increase user engagement and the interactivity between the voter and the system.

Photo of DeletedUser


I think that voring in a referendum over ATMs could last even over two weeks, what would be the problem? The cost would not rise. :)

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