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Ballot Box Device- Adapt to VOTER'S Individual CELL PHONES

Every voter has different needs. Around 85% of disabled Americans have their own personal cell phone device that they are comfortable with using, and adapt to their needs- the voting process can utilize these mobile devices.

Photo of Mei Hsieh
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The problem with current voting machines is that not only are they confusing and intimidating to use, most people are forced to adapt and learn the new device technology on one special occasion, and also in such a short time period. It takes into account that all users have different needs and most users are already experts on their own personal mobile device.

The Ballot Box is a device similar the Square device that collects credit card information using a audio input jack on cell phones. It is a low-tech coded program that could launch on your cell phone- smart phone or not. This is an alternative to people voting by way of pen and paper, yet still provides a physical way of information that can be recorded, collected, discreet, and not replicated. This program would also eliminate the need for assistance, because voters understand how to use their own electronic devices. 

How will this concept improve election accessibility for everyone?

This concept is can be applied universally because, you don't have to be handicapped to be seen using this option. It erases the perception of clunky electronic devices being specialized only 'for the disabled.' It allows all mobile device users (90% of Americans, or 85% of disabled) to use the technology they work with every day. This recognizes that mobile users have a prior knowledge of how to use their own program- so it lowers the confusion. The program would also launch a voting program that would ask one question at a time, rather than overwhelming the user with all questions on a singular page.

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

This concept was designed to be able to adapt to all kinds of cell phones. It recognizes that technology, trends, and cell phones will change- so it's just a program that can be re-used or rewritten for any 'new'/updated cell phone.

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

This device would have to be mass produced in order to successfully work, but could potentially be more cost effective than several giant (clunky) devices that try to be the 'one-fits-all' model. The technology would have to be developed for different kinds of cellular phones- text based (NOKIAs), smart phone, or flip phones- but the government could recruit/pay the developers to write the program.

Evaluation results

12 evaluations so far

1. How well does this concept address the needs of voters who might be excluded from elections today because of a disability, difficulty with languages or reading, limited mobility or other conditions?

Really well: this concept clearly addresses the needs of voters with different abilities or limitations. - 27.3%

Pretty well: this concept addresses some of the needs of voters with different abilities or limitations. - 72.7%

Not well: this concept doesn't at all address the needs of voters with different abilities or limitations. - 0%

2. Thinking about the resources needed to implement this concept, how feasible is this concept for your community? (Hint: resources might be money, time, partnerships, or other inputs needed for implementation)

This concept is definitely feasible for my community to implement; the resources needed wouldn't be an issue. - 0%

This concept might be feasible for my community to implement, as long as we could find assistance with some of our resource constraints. - 50%

This concept is not feasible for my community to implement; it's just too resource-intensive. - 50%

3. How much of an impact would this concept make on you or your community?

This concept would clearly have a positive impact on me or my community. - 25%

This concept might have a positive impact on me or my community, but it's not clear exactly how. - 66.7%

This concept would not have a positive impact on me or my community. - 8.3%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world. - 25%

I liked it but preferred others. - 58.3%

It didn't get me overly excited. - 16.7%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ashwin Gopi

The Exploring Creativity class and the OpenIDEO student chapter at NYU Poly had a prototyping workshop where we refined your concept! You can check it out here:

Photo of DeletedUser


Great video! I think the role playing really helps make this concept more clear.

Photo of Paul Reader

Hi Daniel could you please take a quick look at my post here about not being able to watch the video (my dial-up connection makes watching videos difficult - especially on vimeo)?
Just would like to know if I have the rough gist of this concept.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Sorry Paul about the video.
Thanks Daniel for the comments. In fact, the students involved in prototyping this concept all agree on the usefulness of prototyping and role playing...
The class was about prototyping yesterday and we had a great presentation by 2 designers of IDEO NY office for the first part discussing prototyping - what types of prototypes and why. We played with the how. :-)

Photo of Paul Reader

Thanks for the explanation AL - I can't watch Mei's video either so I thought I would try to describe the concept with my analogy hoping that I had the idea roughly correct.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Paul, I think your analogy makes sense. In fact, students spend a lot of time discussing the process of plugging in and what would happen with the device and the ballot. That made us discuss what is voting: marking the ballot and / or putting it in the ballot box and having it registered.
I also wanted to add that a few things that came out from this workshop beyond the importance of prototyping was understanding the interface between the ballot device and the phone, the role of poll workers in this process and how the ballot device would be "set up" and how the vote would be recorded and then the device "cleared" and reused.

Photo of Paul Reader

Wow thanks for that feedback AL. I dont feel I have done justice to collaboration on this and a few other concepts partly because I am busy updating mine but also because I had been focusing on things I understood early in the concepting phase.

Photo of Mei Hsieh

Very Cool! Thanks everyone- it was so exciting seeing my idea being developed and role-played out, it definitely explains things a little more in depth/ gives a good sense of what the interaction experience would be like.

Photo of Paul Reader

Could not watch the video but I think I understand the concept sufficiently to ask a couple of questions. To use an analogy from the PC world - I can plug a USB stick into my PC and use (say) Excel to create a spreadsheet then store the resulting file on the USB stick then take that USB stick to another machine and upload the file to be read.
In this case Excel (a device for manipulating data with which I am familiar) would be my cell phone, the data of my vote (like the excel file) would be transferred to the ballot box device (like the USB stick) which would then be connected to a voting machine (second computer) to record the actual vote.

Do I have the analogy approximately correct?
If so, once the vote has been recorded would the device be cleared of vote data to be re-used by the next voter (ie. could you recycle the devices within a polling station) ?

Photo of DeletedUser


thanks for the video! it helped conceptualize the actual solution that you are proposing. I really like the idea of a physical representation of the ballots in the actual use of the devices. I think this is a great idea that keeps the individual and personalized feel of voting and deals with the adaptation to different needs. I wonder if this system could be used in desktop computers as well, to reach those who are not able to leave their house.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

I love the concept and you did an amazing video.
It provides great independence to the voters... To me it's the other side of the coin of Cansu's let Vapp suggests. Cansu's concept focuses on the poll workers and yours on the voters but the idea is similar: providing options through an "open" device. It made me think of a multiple plugs device. Great job!

Photo of Christian Ventez wonder why i`m not in this phase, your concept is awsome!!!

perhaps the only adapt in a mobile device needed is the braille touch screen...

but you certainly have a point, the software should adapt to you and not the opposite.

i hope you win =)

Photo of DeletedUser


WOW! Technologically forward concept that is so perfect. I can see exactly why this concept made the short list. My favorite so far. I like that it adapts to the USER - so an individual with a visual issue, auditory issue, information interpretation issue, etc., could adapt accordingly - because there isn't a one-size fits all tool. Amazing concept. My favorite so far.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this post joining our Top 20 shortlist Mei! We were very intrigued by your idea and loved the time and effort you put into your video explanation!

During this Refinement phase, let's think about what happens once the ballot box device is plugged into someone's smartphone. Does it enable voting via something like the MyVote App that David designed? Or does it help poll workers recognise voter needs, like in Cansu's Let the App Decide concept? For more information on specific ways to iterate and update your concept, check and

Photo of Stefan Ritter

I was thinking it would be great if the software somehow could emphasize the importance of the vote.
There are so many forum polls, and online questionnaires, we click thousands of times every day.
How can we differentiate the digital vote from being just yet another click?

Maybe we could add a tactile component, working with the vibration features of phones or the camera and face recognition to make the digital voting experience more substantial.
The goal would be to give it the feeling of importance and a sense for responsibility and participation similar to the feeling of going to a polling station and making am actual cross on a sheet of paper.

Photo of Cansu Akarsu

Hello Mei, great concept and video! Since your concept suggests that people can vote with their own devices, do you think people have to come to the polling place in the first place?

I also agree with using the existing mobile devices, and possibly using the different sensors of smart phones in the long run. ( ) I eliminate using a new device at all, because you can always download a voting app (may be using a single time password or something). Is the main reason that you have the box to make things fast and controlled, or to make it adapt to the low tech phones?

Photo of Mei Hsieh

Hi Cansu,

Thanks for the comments- I was very much inspired by your concept! The reason why I thought that it would be important to have (most) people to go to the polling place in the first place because I read some articles (also on the network) saying that more people are likely to vote, if they are seen being an 'active citizen'- in a public space, voting with their peers.

While I do agree that someone could use this program also at home, and send their device through the mail... I feel that the general public should embrace the importance of taking the time to go out of their house to vote. I wanted to try and think of an experience that is a transition between physical paper voting and digital apps... and is more involved and carry more work/significance than our daily cellphone networking apps. I think keeping voting on a reserved day, having voting in a public space, as well as keeping the vote a physical tangible thing- retains its significance in our completely-digital world today.

I thought about eliminating the device, and downloading an app, but I assumed that general public or elderly:
a) don't have access to download the app via internet (with low tech phones)
b) don't really know how to download apps

The other main reason to have the box device (similar to square) is exactly what you said, to make things fast and controlled... I feel that a lot of naysayers to the 'digital voting' in machines is that they don't really understand/believe that their vote is not going to be tampered with. Maybe they aren't accustomed to the digital age yet, but I think it's a valid point. They perceive today's electronic apps/programs as just an invisible cloud of information that may get tampered with if they don't really see the result of their vote ( unlike dropping a paper ballot in a physical box).

This is also why I considered using a device platform that is physical- So that people could see these devices being dropped into a box, and it also acknowledges and embraces our country's process to collect votes physically.

Thanks again for your comments, I'd love to know what you think!

Photo of Meena Kadri

Great conversation you've triggered here, Mei. If you are keen to incorporate any of the ideas from the collaborative discussion here – feel free to update your post using the Update Entry button up there on the right. Let's bring on the builds & spell out the specifics!

Photo of Meena Kadri

Another thing you might want to check out is our Personas for Concepts tip sheet. It's a helpful outline of the kinds of accessibility needs we're designing for in this challenge: Perhaps you'll be inspired by one or more of the personas and have a think about how your concept could be further extended to meet their needs? We're looking forward to seeing discussions flourish here and your ideas evolve.

Photo of Cansu Akarsu

Hello Mei,

Yes I agree that the box would make things much faster in case there is a different app programmed for each device, and those have to be downloaded.

I also agree that encouraging people to come to the poll would be the best, however not everyone can. Plus, many handicapped people have stationary devices as well. The strongest points of your idea is to create a voting device from everything, so why not have the poll clerks visit hospitals with the ballot box?

Photo of DeletedUser


What a terrific idea Mei! Given that more and more consumers are moving towards the smart phones, i really think this opens up a whole new avenue for next gen voting.

Building the application wouldn't be hard. Using an interactive text/ voice messaging tool like Twilio, a simple yet secure app can be built, while not worrying about keeping up with different versions of smart phones.

Photo of Ashley Jablow

Mei, what a fab concept and video explanation! I think what excites me most is thinking about how it builds on devices that users are already familiar and comfortable with. I'll be eager to see how this develops during Concepting.

Photo of Vincent Cheng

Agreed, a great concept & video explanation Mei!

Totally aligned with building on devices that users are already familiar & comfortable with. And I find your innovative twist of using a small physical device to store the software/vote quite interesting & appealing.

Technical implementation will have challenges to overcome, of course, as I don't think plug & play driver/software installation for hardware devices is currently built into the main phone operating systems (as is the case in some of the major personal computer operating systems). If not, more work may needed in installing the software on user's phones.

Also, I posted an online/mobile voting concept that's quite complementary with this one: . Would it be alright with you if I linked to your concept from mine as related/complementary concept, and attached your fabulous explanatory video to help illustrate the potential?

Thanks and such a great concept Mei!

Photo of DeletedUser


The idea of being able to use a wide variety of personal devices - laptops, phones, tablets, (and even paper) - to mark your ballot is really great.

WIth so many different devices, how does the ballot get cast?

Is there a simple way to do this? There was an inspiration around
boarding passes for airplanes, which can now be printed at a kiosk or sent to a mobile device as a QR code. Could the voting app store all the choices, so they can be easily cast?

Photo of Mei Hsieh

Yes, Vincent that would be great if you could link the concepts.

Whitney, printing boarding passes is a great idea/ example. Maybe there is a kiosk that downloads the device/voter's information and directly prints the information. The voter could see this kiosk print the vote into a box.

I think there is value and security to the voter in having the device store one voter's choices at a time. The voter might worry that their vote would no longer be private, if their vote was stored on a device that had other people's votes on it. Although I think it's time valuable to the poll workers to load multiple votes, do you think it's worth sacrificing the voter's confidential experience?

Photo of DeletedUser


Mel, I don't think you want to do anything that will sacrifice privacy. That's really a core concept in US elections.

When I think about accessible elections, it seems very clear that there's a lot of benefit to allowing voters to use their own devices because they can use their own assistive technology on a familiar device.

The question becomes how do you get their choices from their device to a form in which they can be cast.

One idea is some kind of QRcode reader. Another is that they print it to cast a paper ballot. You proposed a small device. Maybe the key is considering:

- getting the actual ballot as cast to be the same for all voters, no matter how they selected their choices

- making the way of collecting the information from many different devices be as simple (and inexpensive) as possible.

- deciding what the actual "ballot" is - how would the election be audited or recounted.

I hope this helps.

Photo of DeletedUser


I'm wondering how we could trust the client machines to do what they are supposed to do. How can we be sure that the vote they download is actually the vote entered by the voter? How can we be sure that they don't download two votes, or two thousand votes?

Photo of DeletedUser


Mei - Is the vote to be counted electronically, or manually?

Photo of Mei Hsieh

Hmm. I guess this is something I should explain better . I imagine that these 'digital votes' could be downloaded onto a computer and counted electronically- then the devices can be 'reset' and reused