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Designing 4 People & Process.....

During the voting PROCESS where are the MOST people dropping off and finding challenges? Is the PROBLEM primarily about ballot design? Or about legal constraints? Or is the problem around technology?

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Written by DeletedUser

This challenge has raised a lot of QUESTIONS for me:

  1. Has anybody done a study to figure out WHERE in the VOTING PROCESS the lion's share of people are dropping off?
  2. What are the LAWS around ABSENTEE Voting? 
  3. Could more people vote from HOME or from ABROAD?
  4. Does any county / state / city allow their constituents to VOTE through the WEB?
  5. What kind of SECURITY would need to be in place around a web-based voting system? 
  6. What is the PROCESS for changing ELECTION-related LAWS?
  7. Where do governments obtain FUNDING to support the election process?

I also found some organizations that are solving these problems with TECHNOLOGY.

  1. For instance, Oregon now allows Elderly and Disabled Voters to Vote with I-pads. Although I am not certain if they can vote from home, whether they can use their own I-pads, or whether they have found it easier than the traditional system... 
  2. I also found the Voting Information Project (VIP) which serves as a centralized resource for people across the nation to figure out: 
  • How to Register  
  • Where to Vote 
  • What's on their Ballot
This seems like a great resource to improve access to information. (Although I never heard of it before yesterday - so who knows how much traffic it is actually getting....)

Curious whether anyone in the community knows the answer to these Questions? Seems like there are a lot of variables in this system to design around....

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DeletedUser

Aimee,

Maybe that's where we need to be focusing more of our energy: designing solutions for modern living that just happen to include a democratic support system that requires attention. It could be that we're asking too small of a question. I realize we need to have some sort of focus, but maybe the challenge here is to think bigger than more focused.

It's something I need to consider a little more, but might enable us to have a more fruitful collective discussion about the challenges of life, not just the challenges of the democracy that is part of that life.

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DeletedUser

A great set of ides here. But what might be missing is the idea that people might not be lost as much as distracted. They could know all of these things, but find themselves lost in their daily life to vote on the day. Or they could be lost within the issues and have no real idea what to support, who to support and how.

So they are still lost, but in a social way.

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DeletedUser

Yeah Cameron - the world is becoming increasingly more complex. It is almost impossible not to feel a little lost in all the data, information overload, & urban chaos. I still think that making the voting process / information getting process easier (and digital) would inspire at least a certain percentage of people to vote (who might not vote otherwise). For instance, people who live in big / congested cities - who might not want to travel across town or get time off from work to vote. Or people who live in remote locations, etc. etc..

But, yes, people feeling LOST in a social way is a huge problem in our society right now. It would be interesting to DESIGN solutions around that problem.....

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DeletedUser

Hi Aimee, This is a great graphic and a great set of questions. I've thought for a long time that there is not just one solution to making elections more accessible (in all senses of the word), but that we need to improve in many little areas to add up to a larger impact.

You ask some great questions. I'll try to answer a few:

Political scientists do study participation, and what effects it. Some of this work relies on studying the results of elections; other is research on pilot projects.

Designers might be interested in Better Ballots, a report by the Brennan Center (disclosure: I am a co-author). It started from the work of political scientist, David Kimball, and looked at how ballot design might have affected elections.
http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/better_ballots/

Absentee voting laws vary by state. Many states allow a voter to select this method for preference; others require one of a list of reasons. Often people with disabilities can sign up to be permanent absentee voters, and have their ballots and other materials delivered automatically, but this assumes that they can use a paper ballot independently.

In the past several years, there has been a lot of attention to overseas and military voters (called UOCAVA voters, for the Uniformed and Overseas Civilian Absentee Voting Act, passed in 1986). States often have systems that allow them to deliver ballots via the web or email, cutting down the time to receive ballots.

Although there have been some exceptions and experiments, casting a vote over the web is still rare - and is prohibited in many states. There are security and privacy issues that make everyone cautious.

Election laws are mostly state laws, because in the US federal system, states run elections. They can be hard to change: As someone once said to me, everyone who has to vote on the change was elected under the current system. But, we have also seen changes made for better design, championed by election directors. One example: in Chicago, the election director got a change made in the state law to remove a requirement that names and other information be printed in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. Election departments around the country are trying a lot of different things, and everyone is learning from each other.

In Oregon, by the way, the iPad-based voting system is used by people who cannot use the paper ballot mailed to all registered voters. They can come to a voting center, or request that election officials bring the system to them.

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DeletedUser

Wow, thanks - very informative.

:-)

Yeah, I do understand the security and privacy fears of a web-base voting system. I also worked in litigation technology for awhile - so I know how hard it is to change the law - especially when it comes to technology. So I guess we can only make incremental changes - for the time being.

But at the same time - all of our financial information - social security numbers - bank accounts - health records are floating around on the web and for the most part - they all remain secure. I really believe the benefits out weigh the costs when it comes to this issue. It will be interesting to see when these laws start to change and which states implement changes first.

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DeletedUser

This graphic is a great visual for the voting process and I think that your question is a very important one to ask. If we don't know where the challenges are, how will we be able to address it? It would be interesting to see where the most challenges occur, why and maybe if there is a persona that is attached to that challenge that would help us find a solution.

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DeletedUser

Yes - definitely - I've always found the debate around voting methods / laws confusing - time to dig in and gain some insight. Thanks Audrey...

Photo of Faiz Munshi

Thanks for finding VIP. Their blog has an interesting paragraph on a possible future of utilizing mobile apps-

"At VIP alone, the possibilities are nothing short of tantalizing. For example, think about an augmented reality application that allows you to look through your phone’s camera to navigate to the polling place with GPS, then use text recognition to access on-demand, official voting information about a candidate (including website) simply by pointing your phone at his/her name. On top of that, Word Lens-style instant translation could translate your ballot *and* that official, supplementary information, all in front of you. All of it being instant, seamless, and lightning fast thanks to faster data transmission."

Something to trigger out thoughts as we build into the concept phase.

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DeletedUser

:-) Yes - I do think more people would vote (and make better informed choices) if the information was easier to find & quicker to access.

Photo of Jeroen Spoelstra

Hi Aimee, what good list off questions. I am from the Netherlands and we suffer a decline of percentage when the election is less important. When we vote for parliament around 75% will vote. When we have local elections about 55% will show up and with European elections only 45% will come. Probably people don't show much interest in the local and European politics. And i don't have the right answer where for this problem.

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DeletedUser

Hmm - to me it seems like local politicians / issues/ elections would have more of a day-to-day effect on my life compared to national elections. Are the elections run any different on a local - national - union level that might be causing this divergence? Or is the issue just apathy?

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Congrats on this post being today's onsite Featured Inspiration!

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DeletedUser

Thanks. :-)

Photo of Paul Reader

Aimee you have done a great job in summarising the issues.

These are indeed some of the questions many of us are grappling with. - and the answers depend upon where you live. With a turnout averaging 95% Australia experiences few of the problems that seem to beset many places in America.
From what I read in other inspirations I would suggest for question 1. there are hree points of drop-off
a) those who choose not to vote either ideologically or through apathy;
b) those who don't know enough about how to vote through language barriers, including illiteracy; and
c) those who wish to vote but are unable to do so.
Without mandatory voting there will always be a high proportion of a), while at the same time there is minimal incentive for the state to address either of the other issues.
My understanding is that the main focus of this challenge is in addressing c) with the hope that in so doing there may be spinoffs for a) and b) too.

I think questions 2 and 6 are important but outside the scope of the challenge.- although maybe there are opportunities to cast absentee votes in new ways.

Focusing on questions 3, 4 and 5 is the core of the challenge that can address b) and c) (particularly) from question 1.

Question 7 is very interesting and answering it would probably give great insight into some of the underlying causes of question 1 drop-offs.

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DeletedUser

Thanks Paul!

Yes - I am trying to understand whether Absentee laws could be somehow applied to a greater population - so that more people could vote (as well as register) from home (or through the web - wherever they happen to be.)

My hypothesis is that more people would participate if the process was easier, more convenient, and less time consuming. I am going to do a bit of research to see if this is accurate or just my bias.

As I understand it - you are saying that these laws vary by city / state/ county / country etc.? So I am wondering how to get around that design constraint. Or what would incentivize governments to change these systems, laws.

Obviously the technology to register to vote, send votes, authenticate identity, receive votes, tabulate votes, keep votes secure - all through the web - already exists or could be easily modified from existing technology. I would look to other high security processes & industries - such as investing, trading, borrowing, money management, and banking - for analogous solutions.

Through these type of technologies - USER INTERFACE DESIGN can solve most problems all different types of people encounter as they try to understand the registration process, as well as the ballots themselves. Plus user testing, built in feedback, and analytics will give administrators concrete data they can use to improve the system and design to make the process more ACCESSIBLE for everyone.

It is just a matter of incentivizing and convincing governments (as well as constituents) to use them and that they are SECURE....

I still need to do a bit of research into the existing laws and media around this issue - to see why these types of solutions haven't already been implemented. And if they had, what the process was for implementing these changes.

Photo of Paul Reader

The only system that I have personal experience with is Australian - the page in this link is for federal elections in Australia with very similar arrangements for state elections (except access to voting in other states on election day may be limited or unavailable).
Because voting here is compulsory authorities have a legal duty to provide the most convenient access to our paper based voting, especially for the disabled.

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DeletedUser

Wow. That's so cool - I never knew that voting was compulsory in Australia. "Legal duty to provide the most convenient access." That's incentive. :-)