iPad Absentee Voting
For many individuals, even getting to a polling place is out of the question. This post outlines a concept of an iPad running custom voting software that will allow flexible absentee voting in places such as hospitals.
Between the aging of our population, general disabilities,
and wounded veterans coming back from overseas, there are an ever-increasing
number of individuals that are not able to easily make the trip to vote at standard
polling locations. This system hopes to change that.
1. An application is currently under development that has the ability to take electronic
ballot information (ideally in an XML format) and reformat it into a highly
accessible presentation. This application is a simple, uncluttered presentation
of the information and controls needed to complete the ballot and has many
accessibility accommodations available including variable font sizes and
screen-to-text contrast. The application is also designed to be compatible with
a number of assistive technologies (sip and puff systems, joysticks, 2 or 5
button controllers, speech output, and more.)
2. This application can be utilized on any mobile device,
laptop, or even natively on a voting machine, however, our principal idea
involves the use of an Apple iPad. An iPad running this voting application will
be installed into a custom, tamper-proof case outfitted with large tactile
controls. This case will not allow interaction with the "Home" button
on the iPad, removing the ability for users to exit the application.
3. Users can then interact with the application in two ways:
- The handheld iPad in the custom case can be brought to
patients who are, for instance, unable to leave their bed. Patients can then
interact and mark their ballots via the touch screen, the tactile controls on
the iPad case, or another compatible assistive technology.
- The iPad can be installed in a kiosk or semi-permanent stand.
The iPad and case will securely lock into the stand to prevent theft or
unwelcome interactions. The kiosk itself can have a much more robust set of
controls for interacting with the application, including a full keyboard. Users
go to the kiosk, mark their ballots using a variety of available methods, and
then the final marked ballots can then be sent into polling locations using any
permissible submission method, like printing and mailing.
How will this concept improve election accessibility for everyone?
Adoption of this concept in hospitals, elder care facilities, hospices and other similar, smaller scale environments will aid individuals in those facilities with the voting process. If the transition to this technology goes smoothly enough, this is a model than can then be expanded to various other locations. Ballot marking kiosks could be located in myriad places, enabling greater efficiency of voting for anyone at the actual polling location as well as an increased likelihood of voting due to the reduced hassle. The simpler voting interface combined with many potential methods of interaction (kiosk, custom iPad case with tactile controls, touchscreen, voice command, and other assistive technologies) should be more intuitive and less stressful than current polling methods.
How well does this concept adapt to the changing needs of different voter communities?
This is a highly adaptable system. Not only is it portable, but the potential for varied iPad case designs allows users to interact with the software in a wide variety of ways. It also has the benefit of being able to grow and eventually act as a self-service voting center as long as the proper security protocols are in place for internet voting (though that is currently a very long way from happening).
What kinds of resources – whether time, money, people, partnerships, technology or otherwise – will be needed to get this concept off the ground?
This is a multi-faceted project that requires programmers, product designers, care facilities, and municipal, state, and national government to all work together to achieve this goal. Once the software and hardware is designed and tested, there needs to be an initiative to provide ballot information in a format that can be read and adapted by this application. Getting this ballot data in an appropriate format from the myriad, diverse organizations that control all of the different elections in this country is probably the single biggest roadblock to the success of this system. This design addresses one of the central problems (marking the ballot), but there are a lot of other problems before and after that step that have yet to be resolved.
My Virtual Team
This concept is currently under development by the researchers in the Georgia Tech Research Institute's Human Systems Integration Division.
Idea submitted by: