The Challenge

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How might we design an accessible election experience for everyone?

Challenge Brief

For many citizens in democracies around the world, the ability to cast an election ballot is often a given. But what if you had a disability, difficulties with language or reading, limited mobility or other conditions that excluded you from participating in the election process? In fact many people face a variety of social and technological barriers that impede their ability to cast their ballot privately and independently. In this challenge, OpenIDEO and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation are asking our community to find ways to improve election accessibility for people with disabilities and other limitations. With your help, we’re eager to design new solutions that make the entire voting process – from registering to vote to casting a ballot – accessible for everyone.
Understanding the Context
Voting is an important activity for citizens in any democracy. But when elections are not accessible, people with disabilities – some 10-20% of potential voters – are left out. To provide some context, the U.S. Census Bureau [1] says that over 36 million Americans have a disability of some kind. The United Nations [2] says this adds up to 650 million people worldwide.
 
This number may seem like a lot on its own, but in fact it doesn’t include the worldwide population of people whose access to elections is restricted for other reasons: because they don’t speak the local language, they struggle with illiteracy, they live far from a polling place, or they face various challenges related to aging, to name a few. Given this, when we talk about access to elections we must remember to include citizens with diverse cultural backgrounds, technology experiences, literacy and language proficiency, and abilities.
 
 

The Opportunity

In the United States, a 2002 law (the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA) said that people with disabilities must be able to vote with “the same opportunity for access and participation (including privacy and independence) as for other voters.” Although much has been done to increase voting accessibility, more progress is needed in the United States and around the world.
 
We have invited election officials around the United States to join the OpenIDEO community for this challenge, adding their perspectives and expertise to the innovation process. For example, Los Angeles County elections officials will be following this challenge in their pursuit of a modern voting system. In L.A. County alone, your ideas during this challenge can help improve the voting experience for 4.5 million voters.
 
While each country has its own election system, and we have only a limited ability to change that, we can focus on making elections more accessible, through new technologies, communications tools, and processes.
 
How might we ensure that everyone – regardless of their physical, mental or psychological abilities – has equal access to the election process? How can we design for universal access, identify new technologies or develop new tools, so that everyone can use the same voting systems? 

This challenge is non-partisan: it does not support any political parties or political interests. Read this challenge’s Guiding Principles for more. For more background on accessibility in elections,  these sources are a good place to start.

Look back on the design priorities the community focused on during this challenge. 
 
Sources: 
[1] US Census Bureau
[2]  UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
 
Hero Image credits, clockwise from top left: Flickr (rockinpaddy, January 2012); Flickr (timmyo, January 2012); Flickr (expertinfantry, January 2012); courtesy LA County; courtesy LA County; Flickr (José Serra, January 2012).
 
 

About the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is a non-profit think tank at the cutting edge of designing policies that will boost economic growth and improve quality of life in the United States and around the world. The ITIF Accessible Voting Technology Initiative is a project funded by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to make voting processes and technology more accessible. On this project, ITIF is partnering with researchers from universities across the United States and the National Federation of the Blind. This challenge is one way we are exploring new ideas for improving elections. For more about our project, go to http://elections.itif.org.

 

 

Challenge Partner:

  L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk
 

Community & Social Media Manager:

  Meena Kadri
 

Our Challenge Administrators

Check out how our global community is contributing - and the winning ideas!

Comment on the Brief

If you'd like to leave us your thoughts on this brief, tell us what you think. Be sure to also check out the challenge

Join the conversation and post a comment.

chang liu

April 02, 2014, 18:12PM
"vote" is a stranger for Chinese people, lol.``~~

chang liu

April 02, 2014, 18:12PM
"vote" is a stranger for Chinese people, lol.``~~

Congmin Liang

March 05, 2014, 01:05AM
I didn't know how the election worked in the United States, because I am not the citizen here. And in our country, we don't have this kind of election to vote for a country's president. This topic is very new to me, and I am very interested in this challenge. So I will looking forward to see what other people think of how to design an accessible election for everyone.

Edmund Ng

November 12, 2013, 08:00AM
I do not see mobility or disability as an issue. In Singapore, there are always designated personnel on standby to help anybody with difficulty to proceed to the ballot box and vote for the candidate of their choice.

Let's talk about something that's more in depth. How do we stop politicians and incumbent governments from cheating in elections. I must say that everywhere you go, there's outright cheating in all countries.

In many Asian countries, we see many blackout incidents where ballot boxes are switched. In Malaysia, there's also phantom voters. E.g. Constituents who don't even stay in the same constituency suddenly appears in the electoral register and are eligible to vote. We also see many cases of imported Bangladeshis that are escorted to polling centres by Malaysian policemen to cast their vote. Don't you think they should do it more discreetly? - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHxVDFpbUDc

How do they operate such a cheat? They have indelible ink that is supposed to be painted on the fingers of voters to prevent them from voting twice. The indelible ink was supposed to contain silver nitrate and should only be washed away after 2 days. However, the Malaysia government and the Election Commission decide to use food dye to pass off as indelible ink. The ink could be washed off almost instantaneously. If you just insert these phantom voters into 5-10 constituencies, these voters could easily vote in 5-10 times especially when they are carefully escorted by the police themselves.

In United States it's even worse. You guys use voting machine and all they need is to trigger a command and the results can be easily manipulated. Just how on earth are we going to eradicate all these fixed elections? - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4aKOhbbK9E

I believe I might just have the answer for that. All the time, we have been played by the Government, telling us that our votes are secret. That is what they want us to think. When it's secret they can do whatever they want. It's like asking them, how much money does the US government owe the Federal Reserve...it's a secret too.

Here's how we're going to turn the tables. From now on, all voting are done in public. When entering the polling centre, everybody will be asked to face a video camera with them showing their id. They would also be asked to declare their vote publicly and verbally. This way all records are documented and the information is transparent to all candidates. Overseas voters could also vote via web-cam or pre-recorded videos with them holding on to their ids and declaring their vote.

I know this day would come sometime in the future. Maybe I might not live long enough to see it. Some of you might asked, typically the Singaporeans that's so afraid of the government blacklisting them if they know that they're voting against them. Well for one, they can't be bothered with that. All they're good at is spreading rumours at coffee joints that if you vote against the government your queue for public housing will be pushed way back or terminated. Singaporeans are just so naive and sheep like that you can really call them Sheeple.

Well, bless the karma of those spreading the deceit. For those who are really afraid, then perhaps it's time to surrender that citizenship and go to a country that respects your right to vote.


Edmund Ng
http://www.internetempire.com.sg

Lisa Lightman

July 04, 2012, 17:04PM
People are essentially motivated by economics. A rebate or tax credit system could be introduced for those who have participated in the voting process.

Mike Wadas

June 29, 2012, 18:27PM
First of all, I think that we should all get a receipt when we vote. This way we have proof of who we voted for. Voter fraud happens when we cannot check up on how our votes were processed. First we should have a kiosk that is fairly divided between the candidates. Some people just pull the D or R switch and call it a day. If we evenly divide the delegate selections on primary day that would create motivation to do your home work, and would reduce party fraud. The reason why endorsements usually win is because it is set up that way at the polls. People are too busy with their lives to do their homework, and feel that they are doing their patriotic duty to at least vote. I think that before you even go to the polls there should be a highly accessible breakdown of the candidates, and their positions on the issues. This could be sent by email, mail, sms, ASCII Braille, and at the polling location. The first step is to make the facts about the candidates accessible to potential voters, and when they register to vote these options should be available to them.

Karl Donert

June 21, 2012, 08:48AM
Citizen engagement is critical, to involve and include the electorate in the system. To develop this we need citizens to feel connected to the area / place / region / country concerned by the democratic processes. My association (european Associatioof Geographers) belive we need to develop an education for Spatial Citizenship (http://www.spatialcitizenship.org/), alongside technological solutions.

Mary Sajfar

March 23, 2012, 01:16AM
These seems so simple to me. You have more than one option. Gov't can do more than one thing though right? So people don't like the SSN thing....fine. Just assign a unique # to each person when they register to vote. Then have the polls as you do now. Allow online voting. Then have a tollfree # for people to call who are home-bound, hospitalized etc and have portable voting machines and volunteers to go to their homes, nursing homes, hospitals, etc. Done!

Charlie Shread

May 31, 2012, 21:15PM
Perfect response :)

Eduardo Fernandez

March 21, 2012, 20:26PM
First of all... We need to get rid of the people that rig the voting machines... Then prosecute the same and the ones paying money to them... Then we will have true elections...

Mike S

March 11, 2012, 23:39PM
I don't know if this was already thrown out there, but I would say voting by telephone. Possibly only allow a specific time frame from when you are able to call in and vote. A mass advertisement would be broadcasted on television notifying people. The number could be easy to remember in case people are not watching television during the broadcast. An automated operator would ask you to input your social security number, verifying you are able to vote. From there, you would vote whom via dial pad. I think usage of the telephone would be easy, allowable, low maintenance, and cost friendly. Even with Androids & Iphones, a DIGIBallot could be possible and verified by Social Security #. The only concern overall is the security that you could possibly compromise your ss #. However I believe it is not impossible to use this method if that problem can be solved.

Mike S

March 11, 2012, 23:50PM
I also wanted to add the concern for need of high amounts of data storage, it has to go somewhere! I don't think that is quite a big concern as more and more we are adapting to technology and everything is becoming more digitized.

Aaron Landry

March 10, 2012, 00:03AM
Seems to me that the solution chosen needs to convey to voters that their vote does indeed count and matter.

Rosalyn Benjamin

February 29, 2012, 22:49PM
Some important points have been raised in the comments below. There are lots of different types of access issues, many of them being physical access issues such as mobility, visual or hearing impairments. Having looked at the concepts being submitted already there are already some great design solutions being generated. Technology has a big part to play in addressing these access issues and will be increasingly important in creating a better experience at the actual poll stations - whether these may be located.

However, for many the issue is simply getting to their designated poll station, whether this is because of a physical disability, transport costs or even lack of transport altogether in their remote town or village. So why not look at what progress other schemes have already done to get around this problem? Doctors and mobile health care units regularly make visits to remote locations or make home visits for people unable to leave their homes. Perhaps this is a model that could be explored in this context.

Finally, I don't think enough attention has been given to understanding people's motivation (or lack thereof) to vote. Making the elections accessible is not simply a case of getting people to their local polling station. According to Eric Plutzer (professor of political science in the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State) a third of Americans fails to vote and the reason is often down to education, social influences and even habits. So why is it that at the same time as many citizens in Arab countries are willing to sacrifice their lives for freedom of choice, a third of American's don't consider their constitutional right to vote a priority? Simply 'being told' to vote is not enough - young people in particular need to engage in stimulating discussions that will engage them and allow them to make more informed, critical decisions that can affect their future. This education should not take place in the classroom (which should be politically impartial as much as possible) but rather in a more organic fashion through family, communities and other social settings.

Koffi BASSAN

February 28, 2012, 13:22PM
Eradicating violence and any other barrier during election period is a matter of eduction.

Designing an election that is free of violence is a tough job, but an anthropologist Elinor Ostrum, by trying to answer the question of who should manage the natural resources, designed a management model that could be efficiently applied to eradicate or at least mitigate the violence during election which has characterized recently developing countries.

For the management of natural resources Elinor’s model made a clear difference between the “private property” and “common good”. The common good should be managed by the community or the government that implement such community programs. To ease the purpose of this discussion, and community’s development program can be classified as a ‘common goods’. Thus Elinor’s natural resources management model is appealing for the tackling of problems that occur during electoral moments.

The model also considers different levels of organizations including local community level, the intermediary levels, and finally the upper level. For example, the local organization may be taken at the village level; the next higher organization (e.g. a county) may regroup many villages) like a the county; Many counties would merge to make a higher level of organization, say, a state or global organization. Overall, a fusion of the lower level entities would produce the immediate higher level ones. This hierarchy would proceed up to the highest level of organization. Importantly, the model suggests that the community organization should be free of any external influence.

Thus, one should understand that, fighting the violence during election periods would be a long and tough process with difficult tasks. First the community members should understand that their life primordially counts for themselves. That is, they should rely on themselves for their daily life which includes food supply, access to primary health and education, and for any other social security. This implies that any political party or organization cannot help them out of the problems undergone. In other words, each person has to care for his own life, instead of relying on other structures or other political entities.

In addition, the community members should also understand that their life depends on the survival of the community and thus any outside interference should be of lesser consideration than that of the community programs. That implies that the survival of the community must also constitute priority.

To sum myself up, the priority of each in the community should be put on the individuals and on the community, not in the political parties or any other external association.
 

The question now is how to fit in political activities. One should understand that the real causes of the violence during election are the lack of ‘trust’ and ‘honest’, which has rooted from the history and the culture of the communities. Say, slavery and the colonization are examples historical influences. The multiplicity of the tribes has also played negative role in the coexistence of the communities in many countries, mainly in Africa. The violence during election periods is just an illustration of difficulties in the cohabitation among groups from difference experiences. Ultimately, or major goal would be to restore the trust and honesty between members of the community who at this point should have common interests and goals. The Elinor’s model could help to reach these goals.

Even if the political activities would be on going within the communities through the grassroots’ these activities would not be the major preoccupation for the whole community as it has been so far. As the community members are self reliable, they can make any political decision as long as this decision fits in their personal interest and that of the community. What is needed is a mutual understanding among the members.


Overall, one should understand that eradicating violence during election period will be to build trust and honesty among the people.

Sienna Bankler-Jukes

February 27, 2012, 23:13PM
Christine - I couldn't agree more!

We rely far to much on the magic of hi tech gadgets to solve our problems, when really the tools we need are often already there. Those with the most problems to solve probably have the least access to expensive modern devices.

In these times of over consumption and dwindling resources I think we really need to get out of the habit of making a new thing for every aspect of our lives.

Steven

February 27, 2012, 18:42PM
I understand and applaud the non-partisan goals of this project. It may be harder than it appears though. For several years we have submitted a research proposal to NIH to build a software application to increase knowledge and voting opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. Part of the concept includes the ability to cut-and-paste local election content into the system so that a built-in screen reader can assist users in reviewing real local election information and practice voting on an electronic sample ballot populated with the local election issues. Every year it has been scored fairly highly but not funded due to concerns that people would use this feature to incorporate partisan information in an attempt to sway votes within this population. Finally this year we just took that feature out, resulting in a much less effective approach of providing only general voter rights content and a practice ballot on a simulated election.

Christine Kenline

February 27, 2012, 16:28PM
I think the concepts submitted are extremely technologically innovative. However, there are still a lot of people that don't have access to technology (i.e.: cell phones, IPADs, etc.) I believe we should take advantage of the resources we already have to save energy and money. For example, use language learning centers on voting day for those who don't speak the language. They already have the resources and translators. Also, cities could provide free public transportation on voting day. Most importantly, I believe society has lost interest and understanding on how their vote really counts, so providing education through local newspapers and online resources is key to inform the public. We sometimes forget that voting is a part of our expression of freedom, so we should really be celebrating this right and opportunity.

Meena Kadri

February 27, 2012, 17:53PM
Great insights, Christine. We hope you'll swing by our Concepting phase and post your ideas there: http://bit.ly/vote-ideas Creativity loves company!

Jutta Jerlich

February 21, 2012, 01:24AM
I am not sure if my thought has already been address in the vast range of concepts that I read through:
For a successful participation in elections I think that it is necessary
1. to understand why it is important to vote.
2. have access to objective information to understand the choices
3. know where and how to vote.

All 3 points need to be included in a concept and address the different (target) groups with their specific needs.

Looking forward to your feedback ...

Takang Pamela Manyo

February 19, 2012, 23:17PM
I was just thinking the possibility of grouping inspirations on various electoral phases with one additional phase to cover cross cutting aspects.

Takang Pamela Manyo

February 19, 2012, 23:01PM
I appreciate the diversity of inspiration classifications in terms of experiences, empathy, innovation etc. This gives everyone the opportunity to contribute from his own background be it geography, religion ability, etc. - result is inclusion.

Ashley Jablow

February 20, 2012, 21:41PM
Thanks for your input! Glad to hear it's helpful for you. Hope to see you over in our Concepting phase!

Jeremy Epstein

February 17, 2012, 17:24PM
I'm a security researcher and a pollworker, but a novice when it comes to accessibility. What would be helpful to me as a pollworker is guidance on how to use the technology I have effectively. For example, in my locality we have both DREs (touchscreen voting systems) and optical scan (paper). Depending on the voter's abilities, one or the other may be easier for them to use - if they don't know, what questions can I (or may I legally) ask them to help? As an example, I had a voter at the last election who had never been able to cast a vote because of cognitive issues in understanding how to use a touchscreen - and no one had ever offered him a paper ballot as an option! And no one had explained to his mother that she could assist him if she signed a simple form, but that she had to mark his selections and not her own!

It's not realistic to say "get 4 hours of training", because the entire training for a pollworker for all activities combined is 2 hours.

Obviously the guidance will differ somewhat from one state to another (due to differing laws) and depending on the type of equipment in use, but a "cheat sheet" would be helpful. Pollworkers are largely untrained volunteers (or poorly paid) and older than the average American, so solutions that they can use to help with the technology we have today could have an immediate impact, until such time as better solutions are available.

Ashley Jablow

February 20, 2012, 21:42PM
Terrific thoughts Jeremy – here's hoping you'll contribute all of that great experience and insight to our Concepting phase!

Whitney Quesenbery

February 21, 2012, 00:30AM
Jeremy, You make two important points about the need for training, and the constraints.

It would be great it you could contribute this idea for a cheat sheet for how to enable the accessibility features that already exist.

One of the Inspirations posted recently has some great awareness training for poll workers, created by an elections department in Florida. It's a nice example of how video could be used in training for pollworkers.

http://www.openideo.com/open/voting/inspiration/sensitivity-to-voters-with-disabilities/

Rosalyn Benjamin

February 29, 2012, 22:09PM
Jeremy, you provide an excellent example of the voter with cognitive issues. While personally I believe the way forward is technology (and we will increasingly move towards a completely digital and probably online voting system) we cannot forget that some times common sense over rides these systems! Offering voters options such as switching to a paper ballot or having a trusted person assist them in casting their vote is crucial in making voting accessible to all.

Having the capacity and resources to provide training will unfortunately always be an issue but perhaps there is a way around this: instead of trying to train everyone upfront can we create a complete, fast, searchable resource (whether digital or physical) which the poll workers are trained to use efficiently and solve such issues?

Francesco

February 17, 2012, 15:47PM
Ciao a tutti, sono italiano e, pertanto, non conosco a fondo la legge degli Stati Uniti, perciò, mi affido a voi che avete lanciato la discussione.

Sono nuovo di openideo e non ne conosco ancora le finalità, però penso che la discussione sull'incapacità della società civile di dare accesso al voto ai disabili è una cosa dovuta dal momento che si fanno le leggi ma non si applicano.
Non si tratta solo di mezzi ma anche di cultura.
La legge dice che tutti hanno diritto a esprimere il proprio voto ma non definisce le metodologie per l'accesso da parte dei disabili e di chi, per altri motivi, ha difficoltà ad accedervi, e questo è un fatto gravissimo e denota una cultura ancora poco attenta ai problemi di tante persone.

Cosa si può fare per ovviare a questa "disattenzione" dei legislatori?
Come qualcuno ha sostenuto, si potrebbe usare la tecnologia. Vero, ma da sola non basta perché non tutti hanno accesso ad internet. Pertanto, nell'attesa che internet sia accessibile a tutti, l'unica soluzione è quella di andare direttamente nelle case di coloro che sono impediti a recarsi ai seggi. Per fare ciò ci sono due modi: o si distribuiscono le schede prima del giorno delle elezioni e poi si passa a prenderle, o si va nelle case il giorno prestabilito si consegna la scheda, si spiega il funzionamento e si attende il voto.
Un'altro modo potrebbe essere quello della posta. Si manda la scheda per posta, il cittadino vota e rispedisce la scheda; c'è però il difetto che potrebbe volerci molto più tempo.

Ashley Jablow

February 20, 2012, 21:50PM
Terrific points Francesco, thank you for sharing them! We hope you'll join our Concepting phase to share your ideas to make elections accessible. We used Google Translate to understand your message and to write this one. Everyone is welcome to contribute to OpenIDEO regardless of their English language proficiency – and a tool like Google Translate is a great place to start! Hope to see you on OpenIDEO again soon.


Terrific punti Francesco, grazie per la condivisione di loro! Speriamo che aderire alla nostra fase concepting per condividere le tue idee per rendere accessibili le elezioni. Abbiamo usato Google Translate per capire il tuo messaggio e di scrivere questo. Tutti sono invitati a contribuire a OpenIDEO indipendentemente dalla loro conoscenza della lingua inglese - e uno strumento come Google Translate è un ottimo punto di partenza! Spero di vederti sul OpenIDEO presto.

Mamta Gautam

February 09, 2012, 21:01PM
Dear Ashley and Meana , its indeed a challenge in need.

However, i am disappointed to notice that the brief refers to people with moblity or other limitations as "disabled" and not "differently- abled".

There has been ongoing debate on how to make the systems inclusive for people with varied 'disabilities'. The biggest challenge has been to remove the stigma associated with being 'disabled'.(with ref to book INCLUSIVE DESIGN -DESIGN FOR WHOLE POPULATION )
 Also, the book states that it is wrong to call a person handicaped, as he/she is handicapped by the design of environment around him, whereas he/she might be differently abeled. A lot of products designed and developed for disabled are not adopted/used by them due to social stigma associated with using a product as it designed for someone who is "disabled"." (ref -INCLUSIVE DESIGN -DESIGN FOR WHOLE POPULATION )
In order to arrive at inclusive solutions, it requires a mind-shift , we/ society(normal people) need to look at people with so called 'disabilities' at the same platform like any one of us.
For example a person with vision impairment might /or most likely would have highly developed sound senses than any normal person and is differently abled and not disabled.

Kindly do not misunderstand my nitpicking (if i come across as that ) i hope the open ideo team does not mind me bringing this up ,it is just an observation. I have been working very closely in last three with people who are differently abled, and have been involved in discussions around the subject. Inclusive design is one of my main area of work and i could not ignore the terminology here, it is considered an offense now to refer to a person as handicap or disabled in liu of latest debates and developments on the same.
Kindly check this link below -http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/111450.html,
Great going to all the inspirations and a very very challenging brief . Cheers !

 

Margarita Gonzales

February 14, 2012, 01:55AM
As an input, I'd like to share this document, and "A to Z" of the disability language: http://www.northcott.com.au/uploaded/File/The%20Disability%20Language%20A-Z%20Guide.pdf

Ashley Jablow

February 20, 2012, 21:44PM
Great points Mamta, and thanks Margarita for sharing this doc! You're right that language is hugely important, and it's something that we're all still learning about and practicing. As long as we continue to approach our submissions and conversations with respect, openness and understanding, we'll be on the right track.

Cinder McDonald

December 15, 2012, 20:35PM
I think it depends on whom you're talking to. My daughter and I are both disabled. Many of my friends are too. We are all fine with the word, disabled. The problem is with the attitudes people have, and that will not change if you call us differentably-abled. The way to change the attitude is to include us. My daughter and I work the polls, more of disabled people need to work the polls. Many disabled people don't vote because the political system ignores us or thinks of us as a burden. Despite our numbers, we are a forgotten minority group during election time. When did you ever a pollster caring about who we voted for?

Tony Cantero

February 09, 2012, 19:03PM
Addendum to my last entry -- Allowing online voting will make it easier for handicap people (who rely on a wheel chair or powered chair for mobility) to be part of the voting process. These people often receive SSI_Disability from the Social Security Administration. People receiving benefits such as food stamps, general relief, welfare, etc... should be allowed to vote online free of charge; while the rest who are not economically_challenged will be accessed a $1 fee to vote online. With online voting, handicapped people can go to their nearest public library to cast their vote; or borrow a friend's or neighbor's online access to cast their vote. Because these economically challenged voters are often not tech_savvy with the internet, they need not have a Facebook or Gmail account. They need only to enter their social security number as their user_names and their date of birth as their passwords. For added security to confirm their identity, the next page will require them to enter the zip code shown on their statements from the government agency that sends their benefit statements ("Social Security Administration" or "County Social Welfare Office" for example).

Jeremy Epstein

February 17, 2012, 17:33PM
Tony, this is a long and complex subject, so just to give a few snippets of a reply. Online voting and online banking are fundamentally different because of the requirement for ballot secrecy (vs. no secrecy between you and your bank), tolerance for fraud (much higher for banks than elections), availability of cross checks for banking (your monthly statement) vs. no receipt to prevent vote selling, and large budgets for detecting and recovering from fraud in banks vs. very small budgets for voting. About the only thing that's similar is that people want to do both voting and banking online, and that adversaries have a huge incentive to interfere with both happening accurately. And when banks get defrauded, they know about it and can (sometimes) stop it, while when voting systems are defrauded we never know.

As for charging $1 to vote as a way to stop cheating, that would be a poll tax which the Supreme Court has ruled is unconstitutional. (And besides, that assumes an attacker can't subvert the payment system.)

Online voter authentication is very hard. While using your SSN & date of birth & zip code is a good way to *identify* who you are, it's a very bad way to *authenticate* (prove) that it's who you are online. Your bank has that information, and so does your doctor, and your insurance company, and many others. So there's far too many people who could pretend to be you. Sending out a password to your home address can help with that problem, but even that risks one member of a household casting votes for another.

Tony Cantero

February 09, 2012, 18:39PM
I fail to understand why we can pay bills online, make purchases on Walmart, Amazon, Ebay, etc.... but CANNOT use this same technology to cast our votes. Every election, I have to take time off from my daily itinerary to cast my vote, and (unless it's a presidential election) come to my designated polling place to be reminded that Americans are idiots to complain of high taxes, not enough public services, a lousy government, etc... yet the same people who complain don't bother to vote. If $$ is an issue to setup voting online, I'd like to advice the same strategy the US Post Office had adopted; charging $1 to file a change-of-address online. If the post office can generate $$ from people moving to another residence, why can't the County Registrars Office adopt the same strategy to recoup the cost of setting up online voting? People choosing to vote online would pay $1 via Visa, MC, or Paypal. After payment, they would log-on using their Facebook or Gmail account. After casting their vote, an email would be sent to their Facebook or Gmail confirming their vote had been accepted, and what their voting choices were. The email confirmation would have a button to click; "Retract My Vote" to notify the Registrars Office someone may had hacked a voter's Facebook or Gmail account, and voter fraud had occurred using his/her hacked Facebook or Gmail account. I've had my Yahoo and Gmail accounts hacked before, which is why the option to "Retract My Vote" should be included to minimize voter fraud. The $1 payment fee will make it expensive for a hacker to jeopardize the online voting process. If the same Visa, MC, or Paypal account is used twice, the system will confirm both voters reside in the same IP_address and/or share the same registered mailing address to receive their financial statements.

Geoff Shang

February 08, 2012, 15:16PM
I'm going to admit right up front that I've only looked at the first 20
or so comments here and that I've not read any other pages. Doubtless
my observations will have been made already, but I feel compelled to
make them in the event that they have not.

It's been my belief for a long time that the only true way to have a
universally accessible voting system is to fully compuerise it. This
way, you can provide multiple interfaces to the same system, based on
need. Instead of having different systems trying to address corner
cases which need to interoperate in such a way that doesn't compromise
the integrity of the person's vote, have one backend that takes care of
all of the security and privacy issues and provide as many different
interfaces to this system as you need or want. This way you could
provide (for example) online voting, telephone voting, in-person voting
with multiple languages etc, all connected to the same back-end.

Since we seem to be concentrating on the USA, however, I'm going to make
another point which I feel must be made. I don't feel you can achieve
true universal access to elections until the electoral system itself is
reformed. And by this I mean the establishment of an independent body
whose job it is to oversee and conduct elections. This is the only way
that you can insure that measures designed to promote equal access are
not tampered with or used for political advantage. One need only to
look at the fiasco that was the 2000 Presidential Elections,
particularly in Florida, to see the potential for this. For example, if
the idea of supplying picutres to aid identification is adopted and the
system is not depoliticised, there's a very real opportunity (for
example) for photos to be manipulated or substituted so as to bias a
voter toward or away from a particular candidate. Or for instance, if
it is determined that a particular disability group typically votes one
way, a person from the opposing party with influence may take steps to
make it difficult or impossible for them to vote.

I grew up in Australia, and while it's true that Australia's compulsory
voting system doesn't fit particularly well when looking at The United
States, it is worth looking at in terms of their efforts to make it as
easy as possible for people to vote and the steps they take to try and
keep the electoral process fair. They still need to do some work in the
accessibility area and probably in others, but they do have an
independent electoral commission and it is my belief that they do a
great job of running the elections fairly.

I am not personally aware of any other country that can be considered
democratic who has an electoral system so open to political
manipulation, and in my opinion this area is the number 1 issue facing
the United States election system, for a whole lot of other reasons not
related to access, but very much releated to the integrity of the vote.
But even relating to universal access, I don't see how it can be done
comprehensively and consistantly without a degree of independence from
the political parties.

Nathan Schultze

February 07, 2012, 06:48AM
In the last U.S. presidential election, only 64% of eligible voters cast a ballot. If people with a lack of accessibility account for 10-20% of voters, then there are still 16-26% of eligible voters who just are not voting.

Why are these people not voting? How can we include them when considering accessibility? Can we make the voting process more fun and exciting as well as accessible?

Charlotte Burgess

February 07, 2012, 01:44AM
I think this is a great brief, but wonder whether different solutions are needed for different countries, or whether one idea can be reached and then adapted. I am a student at business school and during my international political analysis class we are learning different frameworks for understanding how countries are organised. In terms of decision making, for instance, we split countries in to Pluralist (where governments are largely influenced through lobbying), Statist (where decisions are often in the hands of few decision makers at the top of government and therefore quick decisions can be made) and Corporatist (where decisions are more consensus orientated and associations traditionally need to get involved before decisions in government are made). This might be a useful framework once a solution is reached and when you are looking to implement it globally. Further to the implementation consideration, it might be worth grouping countries by those which are bureaucratic (ie. Scandinavia) and those which are relationship based (S.Europe, most of Asia) as this will affect the speed with which changes to the electoral system are implemented. Is this relevant do you think?

Paul Reader

February 07, 2012, 08:34AM
Charlotte your thinking about different solutions for different countries, in my opinion, is quite valid. Looking at the range of difficulties experienced in different countries there are many similarities and many differences. Just as solutions selected for the vibrancy challenge were substantially suited first to Detroit I imagine solutions emerging in this challenge will be substantially suited first to the situation in the USA. Notwithstanding this, there may be very useful spinoffs that can be applied elsewhere.
At present there is very little indication of the geographic distribution of OpenIDEO membership but my gut feeling is that the USA will have a very high representation.
Although the challenge, as presented, appears to have little application to the Australian situation it would be unrealistic to think that the features of the Australian compulsory voting would or ever could be adopted in a jurisdiction like the US.

Emily Goligoski

February 06, 2012, 19:59PM
I was excited see the GOOD magazine community issue a challenge to members to "snap you out of the selfish habits into which we all sometimes fall and [become] a great citizen" this month in partnership with the civic participation organization Guiding Lights (http://www.guidinglightsnetwork.com). Very timely!

Excited to see concepts shared here soon...

Mike Van Pelt

February 06, 2012, 19:37PM
One thing that almost gets left out of this topic is the importance of the *secret* ballot, and how to maintain that with these other voting methods.

A voter *must* be able to cast a ballot without revealing to anyone else how they voted, or they can be threatened into voting a particular way, subject to sanctions for "not voting the right way," or they can sell their vote. It should be impossible for a voter to prove to a third party how they voted.

Eight Nine

February 05, 2012, 20:36PM
After you file your taxes the government should send you a voter ID and a mail-in ballot. The voter ID would allow you to vote online to save costs on processing mailed ballots, and anyone without an internet connection could use the mail-in ballot.

Chelsea Young

February 05, 2012, 17:48PM
Why do people get introduced to elections at such late age? I'm not saying the age for voting should be lowered or anything, I'm saying that getting kid and teens involved or interested to contribute to politics at a younger age might inspire them to be more involved in the voting process later in life. I certainly wasn't jumping for joy and when I became old enough to vote. If voting appealed to younger audiences somehow the government might gain a more loyal group of voters in the long run.

Pradeep Mehta

February 04, 2012, 05:11AM
Low voting is a matter of concern all around the Globe, as some people do not want to go to the polling station even though they are healthy enough to do so. At times people are out of station during election and are not able to caste their votes even if they want to. While going to a polling station is a major challenge for people with disability.
With the development of Information Technology, Electronic Voting (e-voting) should be introduced where voter can vote via means of Mobile Phone or Internet no matter which part or the Globe they are in. For this a Unique Voter ID should be provided along with a password. People with disability can also avail their voter right by self voting at home or ask their dear ones to caste on their behalf.
 This will not only improve the percentage of votes but will also help in bringing the best Politician to Power.

Michelle Baker

February 01, 2012, 07:14AM
I think this is a great challenge. I am also new to OpenIDEO, so I don't have enough for an inspiration yet. However, one things that could be useful for voters who may have problems with the local language is to provide a photo of the candidate along with their name. For example, many ballots only provide the candidates name. Being a child of an immigrant parent, my mother will recognize a candidates face, but she have problems picking out the candidates name.

Ashley Jablow

February 01, 2012, 19:55PM
Hi Michelle, welcome onboard! Be sure to check out the Inspiration phase as other folks are picking up on this thinking around symbols and images to convey meaning. You might even think about interviewing your parent using our Interview Toolkit to learn more about their own experience trying to vote when they don't speak the local language? http://bit.ly/wohj5x Hope to see you over in the Inspiration phase.

Michelle Baker

February 01, 2012, 23:29PM
Thanks Ashley. I never thought about interviewing my mom, but I will no and use the toolkit to learn more!

Dan Carragher

January 31, 2012, 14:32PM
It's really interesting to hear about the differences between countries and continents, interesting question, and a great way of getting such a range of views! (I've only recently joined OpenIDEO, so still getting used to the site concept)

Ashley Jablow

February 01, 2012, 19:52PM
Welcome Dan! Hope you'll join in the conversation in our current Inspiration phase too (as well as submit your own ideas during the Concepting phase!).

Emily Goligoski

January 31, 2012, 06:35AM
I am just learning about this research (so don't have enough details to post as inspiration) but it seems that educator Angela Booker's work around youth civic action might be very applicable here given its focus on increasing political participation in the US: http://bit.ly/zN5TIr

Ashley Jablow

February 01, 2012, 19:51PM
Emily, even this small seed is an inspiration in its own right :) Hopefully you'll head over to our Inspiration phase and add Angela's work as an analogous example we can all learn from. Welcome to OpenIDEO!

Mark Waks

January 31, 2012, 02:09AM
I have to think security is a huge part of this issue. Not only increasing accessibility for people with disabilities, but also in ensuring that their votes are counted accurately.

sachin aggarwal

January 29, 2012, 04:42AM
I have a question. What about campaign, election manifesto of candidates? Are we assuming that people with disability are aware of the works and manifesto of the candidates? How are we communicating to them? That is also a big challenge.

Ashley Jablow

January 31, 2012, 00:21AM
Great questions Sachin. Be sure to check out our Guiding Principles for this challenge http://bit.ly/xPpWaR . There's a pretty in-depth discussion of what issues we're tackling in this challenge, and what we're not. In general, if it's about specific candidates, their political parties and their views on issues, we're not focusing on it. But, if it's about increasing opportunities for voter education, then we're absolutely interested. Hope to see you join our challenge's Inspiration and Concepting phases!

Dominic Prestifilippo

January 28, 2012, 18:04PM
How very timely. Voting is a system that definitely needs to be addressed and brought up to date, in so many ways. It is also great to see that those with disabilities are being directly considered as the lens for doing this improvement. I'm excited to see the outcomes!

Ashutosh Biltharia

January 27, 2012, 22:18PM
It’s a good challenge to work on. For countries like India which is the largest democracy in the world and is one of the most diverse countries in the world and home of many languages, this challenge might solve many problems which occur during the elections. Incorporation of new technologies and communication tools while making them understandable to whole population will be a great challenge (e.g. making it understandable to illiterate population).
Good opportunity to learn whole election system and contribute in the challenge.

Alessia Bellon

January 27, 2012, 15:13PM
Great brief and great topic, it pushes me to look with different eyes at my country and the cities I have lived in! It's impressive how much the perspective can change! Can't wait to learn more and challenge myself to contribute!

Adrian Wijk

January 25, 2012, 19:18PM
The Idea described in the 17 Jan 2012 article found at: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21328476.500-bitcoin-online-currency-gets-new-job-in-web-security.html
 Would be a great technical back bone, it would even allow people to vote from home, and could eliminate voter fraud.

seda özçetin

January 25, 2012, 12:54PM
Really important issue! My mom has cortico basal ganglionik degeneration, so she can't walk, use her hands properly to write her name or sign. This year we had an election in Turkey and despite we had informed the municipality while registering to vote, she was given a voting room in the first floor at a school without any elevator or ramp. So we had to convince the cops to make her vote in the garden. They were hardly convinced and later on everyone saw what she was voting for. And some people commented on us helping her vote, as if we were misusing her right. It was such an annoying experience.
So i think there is a lot room for improvement for this issue.

Daniel Castro

January 29, 2012, 19:12PM
Seda, thank you for sharing your mother's experience. Her story shows how important it is to have an accessible space for voting and to properly train poll workers. I look forward to your ideas on this challenge.

Ashley Jablow

February 01, 2012, 20:01PM
Agreed - Seda, thanks for sharing this story. If you're looking for a way to get active in our Inspiration phase, you might even think about interviewing your mom using our Interview Toolkit: http://bit.ly/wohj5x. It will be very helpful for our entire community to learn from your mom's story. Hope to see you over in the Inspiration phase!

Kiran Gaikwad

January 25, 2012, 03:09AM
Great challenge !! Good opportunity for marrying accessibility issues with technology.

Kellee Franklin

January 25, 2012, 01:46AM
Sounds like fun!

juan camilo padilla

January 24, 2012, 20:59PM
Great challenge, I´ll try to bring my better thoughts on this, trying to forget problems that in my country we have, such infraestructure (roads) and acces to technologies or internet.

Meena Kadri

January 24, 2012, 23:42PM
Look forward to having you on board, Juan! You might like to check out our Innovation Under Constraints section on the Guiding Principles for this challenge: http://bit.ly/vote_guide

Sarah Fathallah

January 24, 2012, 20:40PM
Great challenge brief --very well written!

Laura Espiau

January 27, 2012, 18:24PM
Great challenge! I will find out about the initiatives in my country (Spain) and hope I can contribute to bring solutions to this issue.

Jeroen Spoelstra

January 24, 2012, 20:39PM
What a great opportunity to improve such a vital right in democracies worldwide. I hope the international experiences, inspirations and ideas from everyone will bring some great solutions. I surely will bring on my experience with the election system in the Netherlands!

Meena Kadri

January 24, 2012, 20:41PM
Nice one, Jeroen! We look forward to seeing you over on the Inspiration phase and welcome global insights and solutions.

Joe Ventura

January 24, 2012, 20:18PM
This is a great new challenge--incredibly timely and important. I hope that ideas, in addition to thinking about how to fully democratize the voting experience, also focus on how to improve security and mitigate the potential for voter fraud. Unfortunately, as new technologies are added to the voting experience, the opportunity for voter tampering increases.

Ashley Jablow

January 24, 2012, 20:30PM
Hi Joe, great points and welcome to the challenge! Be sure to join our Inspiration phase (and our other phases throughout the challenge) to help shape the ideas and conversations we have together.

Wil Kristin

January 25, 2012, 01:23AM
Also looking forward to this important challenge! Since we can count on information and communication technology changing rapidly, I think that this challenge will be just as much about figuring out guiding principles in ensuring accessibility as the tech changes. During the Inspiration phase, I'll be looking for any best practices from countries where voting is mandatory, like Argentina and Peru.

David Holtzman

January 27, 2012, 03:40AM
@Wil - Australia. Uses list, or Ranked-Choice Voting.

There's no sense upgrading voting equipment unless we make the rules of the game more fair at the same time.

No more "vote for one"! Let voters rank their choices. No money for anything that can't handle the system of the Single Transferable Vote.

Paul Reader

January 27, 2012, 21:14PM
Australia has 3 tiers of government federal, state and local. Mandatory voting is applied at state and federal levels for all citizens and permanent residents 18 years or older. As David points out a number of preferential voting systems is used at these levels. There is a range of views on the 'fairness' of the various systems used by the states. At the local level (council, municipal) elections only rate payers are eligible to vote and voting is usually optional.
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