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An Election Integration into the College Campus (Cornell University)

THE BUBBLE PROBLEM: We address the problem on college campuses of how students exist within a bubble, disconnected from current events. Our process integrates the election seamlessly into student’s lives and could feasibly be applied elsewhere.

Photo of Design For America Cornell
27 19

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Students are unaware of current events unless they make a conscientious effort to seek them out. We have created a process that begins with the coffee sleeve; next, a QR code and website lead students to be informed and register; lastly, students and faculty vote by scanning their ID Card into a iPod Touch ID Card scanner.

Our concept is centralized around the idea of integrating the election experience into everyday college life. When students are on campus, but not in classes or studying, they spend their time socializing with friends at cafés. These cafes are the central point to support both nutritional well-being and offer the stamina required to continue working. To put it simply, most college-age students are addicted to coffee and all hot drinks in general.

We therefore developed a process for involving and informing students of the election using our knowledge of cafes on our campus here. Our process begins with the coffee sleeve. After students, professors, and staff buy a drink from any location on campus, they will then have an array of sleeves to choose from. These sleeves will be defined by different issues involved in the election, such as education, tax, unemployment rate, deficit, energy, environment, same sex/ LGBT, etc. The customer will have the opportunity to choose whichever topic is of interest to him or her, and on the back of the coffee sleeve they will be given information relevant to each candidate. This presents an issue-based choice, in the place of a candidate-based decision. Using the sleeves, our campus will be able to make more informed decisions instead of choosing a candidate through association to a party.
These sleeves will have raised lettering and Braille in order to reach out to a greater amount of people. They will also be a color-blind sensitive design.

The coffee sleeves will be used as a vehicle to take action is through a QR code or website address printed on the sleeve. This will be used as a platform for students to learn about all aspects of the election as it applies to them.

The format of this website would be designed as a portal to allow students to become informed about different aspects of an election, but more importantly, allow them to have an opinion and voice in the matter. One aspect of the website will allow a user to learn about the different political parties and what their opinions are on certain issues such as tax, civil rights, education, and immigration. If a user is still uncertain on what political party they should join, the site will offer quizzes that will allow the user to answer certain questions on topics, and as a result guide their search for a political voice. Another element would explain to the user how to fill out the different forms that are required to vote such as a registration form, absentee ballot, or abroad ballot. In addition to the education of the political process, the website will display resources to social media, articles, and commentary blogs. These properties will give a user insight on current and past elections. Furthermore, the site will provide a link that will allow a user to search for local events or clubs in their community that relate to politics or election. Overall, the site will give users the tool to learn about politics while giving them the power to be actively involved in the process.

In order to successfully involve as many people on campus as possible, it is important for the actual voting process to be as quick, easy, and localized as possible. We have many students from all over the US, and hectic schedules make it difficult to order an absentee ballot in time. Thus, we have developed a hypothetical system within the Cornell online platform to allow students to register to vote through Cornell. The voting section of the website will be accessed through a log-in prompt to a Cornell secure connection, and will allow students to update their candidate preferences as they learn more throughout the informing stage on their “Voter Profile”.

Student’s ID Cards will be their method of voting. Each vote will be recorded through student’s ID card. There will be designated individuals throughout campus with iPods with a connected card scanner, such as those used by many stores. On election day, all students will have to do is swipe their ID at one of the centrally-located voting stations, and they are done. Click, swipe, vote. That’s all it takes.

How will this concept improve election accessibility for everyone?

This concept aims at integrating the election process into already existing behaviors. In this way, our process has the potential to affect everyone. Every step in the process would take into consideration those who are impaired, from auditory components for those who are blind and aesthetics that are color-blind sensitive.

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

Though this concept was designed for college campuses, it has the potential to work in many different environments. Take New York City for example, there is a Starbucks on every block. Thousands of people filter through these cafes and could have exposure to our coffee sleeves. Our website would be open to the public for information, and it will be focused on connecting to the voter’s interests--rather than simply displaying information. The coffee sleeve is not the only vehicle for action that could be used, but it is one that is found in public, social areas and could generate conversation.

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

A partnership with a coffee or paper goods manufacturer would be required, as well as support from the campus administration to implement these changes. A partnership with the campus newspaper to possibly create a mini-site, for purposes of increasing traffic, would be something to explore. A partnership with iPod Touch card readers would be technology to explore as well. In order to implement this concept, we would use the rest of this semester (until May) to plan for the fall when students are back on campus and there is hype generated around the election. During this time, our Design For America team will work with Cornell Dining to generate the coffee sleeves. A second partnership between DFA and the group that organizes voting on campus will be created for implementation of the online registration and iPod Touch scanners. A possible relationship with the Cornell Daily Sun, the campus student newspaper, will be explored for a possible mini-site within their overarching website. This would use an already established hub of information to create trust in our website and increase traffic. A partnership with the Cornell Democrats has already been established, and a relationship with the Cornell Republicans will be created in the near future. These are for student support purposes.

My Virtual Team

DFA CORNELL TEAM OPEN IDEO Mariel Strauch Lily Estabrook James Park Autumn Gray Joelle Jack Megan Connelly


Join the conversation:

Photo of Edmund Ng

I'm thinking how nice if we could have an app where we force every student in the same app. Whenever there's any major event, all the student's will receive the update and this will definitely get all the students and teachers involved in all activities of their presence.

Edmund Ng

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