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Prototyping for Election Accessibility, Part 2

Tina is pursuing a PhD in Architecture via the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access at Georgia Tech. She and her team are currently developing her EZ Ballot concept which was a winner on our Voting Challenge.

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Tina Lee was selected as winner on our Voting Challenge which asked How might we design an accessible election experience for everyone? Tina is pursuing a PhD in Architecture via the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access at Georgia Tech. Along with three other students and a professor, she is continuing to iterate her EZ Ballot concept with the help of a grant from our challenge sponsors the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).
Tina's EZ Ballot idea seeks to create an electronic ballot interface which she describes as "accommodating the widest scope of voters possible so that a single process is accessible to many." Tina's early explorations included assisting a blind friend to vote and gaining an understanding of the challenges faced by both her friend and poll workers. These insights helped inspire Tina's focus on a single system for making voting more accessible for voters with disabilities – whether they be around vision, hearing, cognition or dexterity. She and her student team were all born outside of the US which gave them fresh perspectives when assessing the current voting options. As a result, the team totally flipped ballot design on its head. Instead of starting with a complex traditional ballot that provides random access to visual information and then adds linear audio information for visually impaired voters, the team used the capabilities of digital technology to create a simple and intuitive linear ballot that everyone could use from the beginning. Then they built in flexibility by adding in random access capabilities for people who have the abilities or desire to navigate the ballot in that manner.
“A man tests a prototype of EZ Ballot
The EZ Ballot has been developed using the Universal Design Principles – co-authored by the professor, Jon Sanford, on the EZ Ballot project. "The design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design." Tina and her team started with sketches and diagrams then moved onto putting together programming, audio and visuals for a testable interactive interface. This has been tested with users facing a variety of disabilities to help iterate information flow, buttons, colours, positioning, gestures and more. "Designing for such a wide variety of access has been challenging yet has helped us to continue to refine our concept in an inclusive manner. The beauty of a prototype is that it moves beyond an idea. Once people can touch and see something and you observe their interactions – insights become very rich," notes Tina.
Next steps for the EZ Ballot team will be to go through a further round of iteration based on the results of their user testing. Next they'll seek feedback from experts in the fields of accessibility and universal design. They expect to go through multiple cycles of refinement till they feel they have developed a solution which can include the maximum scope of users. Their big hope is that they'll be able to expand the impact of EZ Ballot by testing it in a future election – and in so doing, enhance the election experience for many.


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Photo of Pierre Bierre

While the User Interface design is important in any system, the bigger challenge of e-voting is the identification / authentication process, the vote tabulation process, and audit capability.   The overall system value to be elevated is confidence in the legitimacy, fairness and non-tamperability of the entire infrastructure, from the database used to authenticate each voter, to the posting of final vote results, and ability to investigate exceptions, or to handle a recount (or prevent its necessity) in a contested result situation.   If you poke around, you'll likely find some systems requirements.   The book "Libertyville" by Gavin Newsom talks about the future of e-voting.   I'm very glad to see young people interested in e-voting as a systems design problem.   The payoff will be enormous, even though getting there will have to be slow and systematic.

Photo of Robert Clegg

The companion product to this should be a way for the public at large to vote online away from the election site. If we solve the problem of overcrowding and congestion that will free up resources to help those with accessibility problems.

Is anyone working on a solution to have people vote using their IRS account? How about Turbo Tax? I'm positive there are millions of people that would pay $5 to vote online. What about through online Bank accounts?

It's counter intuitive, but solving the voting problem for the masses will free up accessibility resources. Implementation of this technology on site will be a huge hurdle. I can see the frustration with training already at an over crowded polling place.