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Airports "as stressful as moving houses", and voting?

As I was reading about long lines, difficulty of access, lack of understanding, I could not help thinking of the experience of going through security in airports. Can we learn from this stressful experience to make voting more accessible?

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard
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As many of the "negative" election experiences reminded me going through security in airports and I remembered IDEO project with TSA, I did a bit of research to understand what were the changes that could help making the experience nicer.

A 2011 survey of 2000 travelers in Britain revealed very negative and stressful experience: "Flight delays, waiting in long lines and confusing security rules can make airports inherently stressful places."

At Gatwick airport (which I haven't visited)
  • Gatwick pioneers use of technology to get each passenger through security in under five minutes
  • Passengers access security by swiping their boarding cards
  • Screens displaying queue times for different colour coded lanes give passengers choice of which lane to use

What they seem to have done is thinking about the whole journey, i.e. designing a preparation area to help people getting ready, and use technology to make access easier (swiping boarding cards) and to provide information (which makes people feel "in control").

I DEO TSA project explored both the physical space (which for poll stations might not really be an option as voting often takes place in appropriated spaces such as schools; yet maybe one could think of other spaces to organize the elections if we still want / need physical spaces) and the relationships between passengers and TSA officers, and the behaviors of the TSA officers.  The concepts look great and were supposed to start being rolled out in 2009. Unfortunately, I haven't the chance to go through security with this new experience.

From the studies and design projects, it seems that clear (and friendly) communication to the passengers as well as giving them the sense to be in control are two key elements. Being in control can be related to getting information about lines, waiting times, and processes, but it can also come from being able to do do some of the things upfront on line or have a space to do it. Technology is an element but people and behaviors matter too.

In the context of this challenge and remembering scenes I've witnessed of elderly people, people with children and strollers, or people in wheelchairs, I started doing also some research on the experience of going through security when in wheel chairs and found that this is not easy (e.g.
From reading through many inspirations, communication (at the poll, but also about the process and about the different choices and programs... and maybe about what are the voting options if you have disabilities) and feeling in control (by knowing where to go, what to expect, etc., having options that are adapted to special needs, or universal standards that suit all needs) seem to also be important elements in making the election process more accessible.


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Photo of Dan D

There may be more security at the bigger airports, because they anticipate more travelers. - It is helpful, when airports are prepared. But, even at O'Hare and Midway, I've got through security in 5 minutes.

So... with voting, to make it less stressful -
Study from previous years, which are the most populated/busy polling stations. Is it just the number of people? And/Or -- Is it the time of day?

Can you have more volunteers at certain hours of the day?
So, you can boost the volunteers at certain hours of the day (early moring or after work, for instance).

And/Or - have the extra volunteers do just one job of the process -- such as checking IDs.

And/or They can get their name, and find it on the sign-in sheet, before they get to the front of the line... so you've sped up the ID checking time, and the sign-in time.

If certain areas pass out numbers (like a deli), then give one volunteer that duty.

Photo of Paul Reader

Thanks for this comment Daniel - is there a concept in this to re-design the experience at polling booths in USA - you might like to refer to Greg Baker's inspiration - whilst the challenge is focusing on improving access for less mobile or incapacitated voters anything that reduces frustration and stress at polling stations must be beneficial.

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