The Challenge


How might we design an accessible election experience for everyone? read the brief


#Votepools - Refined

Organise car/bus-pools to take people from communities to their voting stations.
Additionally, use text messaging or microblogging to help organise these at short notice.
What's the challenge
For many people, just getting to their voting station is inconvenient, painful, or time-consuming. Since geographic and economic constraints limit where and how many polling stations can be set up, many people (including the elderly, the disabled, those without their own vehicles) have to depend on public transport, immediate family or friends to take them to vote. But throughout the voting hours, there are people from nearby areas who have vehicles that they use to get to the station. 

Summary: travelling to a voting location is an under-rated barrier to voting, which applies to both ordinary voters and the disabled, and especially affects the latter from exercising their right to franchise.
[Please see attached file containing prototypical scenarios]

What's the concept
Can these vehicles be put to use to create self-organising and ad hoc vehicle pools to take others to voting stations?

Also, to address voters with special needs (who often are the most affected in terms of physically reaching a station), targeted voter pools can be planned that can enable this.

The Hows
[Please see attached file containing prototypical scenarios]

Like in any vehicle-pooling system, the challenges are in advertising seats in a vehicle, the time the driver plans to leave, and the "to" & "from" area. To do this, simple communication technologies such as text messaging, microblogging, or even a website would help organise these "one time, no future obligation" pools.

Imagine a voter who plans to go to her polling station at 11 am, and has a car with three vacant slots. She sends out a tweet with a #votepool message such as:
"3 slots, Washington Avenue to Lincoln Street, #votepool". [This could be auto-posted on a website and sent out via other mediums, such as sms, to subscribers.] People can write in and take up slots.

Voters looking for vehicle pools could subscribe to tweets/site by entering preferred time and locations - a simple matching algorithm (or a volunteer-moderator system) could match people and pools.

All this could also be done a day or week in advance, so that voters can be assured of a lift to the voting venue.

The knock-on effects
Votepooling is also a good way to mobilise communities to go out and vote, by exercising gentle social pressure on voters. Voters are usually motivated by a sense of social participation and choice; helping others exercise their franchise too would redouble this sense.

Also, voters who make a public commitment to ferry others are less likely to drop out of voting on the day.

This can also popularise the concept of carpooling - people who're new to it could get to try it out for a day and perhaps become converts, find friends, etc.

Marketing this
* get a local celebrity to offer lifts to people to the voting station!
* partner with carpooling advocacy groups and websites (such as
* spread the love with bumper stickers ("We Pool Our Vote - Join Us"), twitter badges etc.

[Please see attached file containing prototypical scenarios]
How will this concept improve election accessibility for everyone?
By helping those without easy access to mobility to easily obtain mobility from the community. In addition, make it even more worthwhile for the driver to be useful to the community (one, via voting; two, via enabling other voters). Targeted votepools for those with special needs will make it possible for people with disabilities to comfortably access their voting stations.
How well does this concept adapt to the changing needs of different voter communities?
Unless the day voting becomes highly personalised and localised, voters will have to go to a voting station. The means to reach the station may change, but the need to do so will remain. Hence, pooling vehicles is always likely to be relevant.
What kinds of resources – whether time, money, people, partnerships, technology or otherwise – will be needed to get this concept off the ground?
* no new vehicles have to be used; those already available are to be better utilised * built upon simple and existing communication platforms such as text messaging and microblogging * partnerships with voting agencies could popularise this further. * partnerships with carpooling advocacy groups and websites such as * partnerships with disability support groups for targeted votepools.
My Virtual Team
(incorporates suggestions and inspirations by) Vincent Cheng Joyce Chung Jakob Uhlin Anne-Laure Fayard Jim Rettew Jeroen Spoelstra Adriana Valdez Young Paul Reader Qiu Yi Cansu Akarsu Ashley Jablow


Join the conversation and post a comment.

Edmund Ng

November 21, 2013, 14:45PM
This is a nice idea especially for those who have difficulty traveling on their own, either if they are physically challenged or the elderly. Zimride is really big in US right now but it doesn't work out in Asia or

Maybe it's a cultural thing as people in Asia are more conservative. Another reason to it is probably because the location is too near. In Singapore where you can get from point A to point B in less than 40 minutes whichever way you go, transportation time is short and easily accessible.

I think this works out for US but not that applicable in South East Asia.

Edmund Ng

Ashley Jablow

March 22, 2012, 22:47PM
I'm excited about the pdf documents you created to demonstrate how this concept works. I especially loved the use of a hashtag! :) Great job Ramanand.

James Moyer

March 20, 2012, 07:55AM
How do you keep the votepools from becoming partisan? Is there a way of keeping them from becoming partisan?

Ramanand Janardhanan

March 20, 2012, 14:53PM
James, by that do you mean people with partisan agendas could hijack the pools and influence voting? This has been a concern in some elections (in India for instance, political outfits aren't quite allowed to bus in large number of people because voters are often coerced or bribed into following the herd). However, would small ad hoc pools be subject to the same problem? I didn't think so, so I didn't deliberate design to prevent this. I'd love to get your thoughts on this.

James Moyer

March 20, 2012, 19:22PM
I'm not sure if they would be subject to the same problem. There is a large part of me that thinks that it would be likely to occur, because partisans have the most incentive to participate in vote pools (the voter is a captive audience on the way to the polls.) At the very least, that can be unpleasant to the voter and might dissuade them from using the service in the future.

I figure you can build in a feedback system. For instance, you mention twitter, so perhaps a voter who was just picked up can tweet in "Votepool driver #575 in Cleveland won't shut up about candidate Cthulhu." It doesn't really matter how the feedback system works (text, email, whatever) just as long as it becomes obvious quickly that that votepool should not avoided.

Ramanand Janardhanan

March 21, 2012, 02:00AM
That's a great idea, James. I'll work that into the concept.

Ramanand Janardhanan

March 18, 2012, 16:30PM
Thanks to everyone who provided suggestions for this concept. I've started paper-prototyping some of the scenarios listed above - they're available in a new attachment to this post. Will be updating this in the next couple of days. Feedback immensely welcome!

Meena Kadri

March 19, 2012, 22:37PM
Way to go, Ramanand! I suggest you add a line towards the end of your post to remind folks to check out the PDF – just in case they miss it during the Evaluation phase.

Ramanand Janardhanan

March 20, 2012, 14:49PM
I'll do that, Meena - thanks.

A.C. Mink

March 15, 2012, 20:35PM
I like this idea and it works in a combination of environments. I'm not certain that it is feasible when you have individuals who have more advanced physical disabilities, unless the county or an organization is prepared with van equipped for this type of need.

Ramanand Janardhanan

March 16, 2012, 04:17AM
Thanks - that's a great point. I do agree that this is, in its current form, has no special provisions for those with advanced disabilities, and is geared towards enabling the average voter in accessing his/her voting station. I'll try and address this in my refined version of this idea.

Whitney Quesenbery

March 16, 2012, 21:00PM
Lots of people have disabilities who would benefit from an easy way to get a ride to a polling place or (farther away) vote center. I like the way this allows impromptu peer-to-peer connections. It might be valuable for people with conditions that cause fatigue or pain, who don't have access to their own transportation, or for vote centers that are not convenient to public transportation (a common problem outside of city centers).

Ramanand, you might think about either the concepting personas or others to describe how voters might participate in a vote pool.


March 15, 2012, 20:27PM
Congrats on this post joining our Top 20 shortlist Ramanand! We loved the idea of tapping into existing routines and building off personal relationships.

During this Refinement phase, let's think about ways to start building this microblogging or text-based service, perhaps even prototyping with sketches or mockups of what it would look like? For more information on specific ways to iterate and update your concept, check and

Ramanand Janardhanan

March 16, 2012, 04:15AM
Thanks - I'll add some more details and prototypes very soon.

Whitney Quesenbery

February 25, 2012, 00:51AM
I really like the voter-to-voter nature of this idea. The political parties and other advocacy groups have always organized ways to get their supporters to the polls. (I learned that one reason there are lines at early voting centers is because groups organized vans and bus-pools, so a lot of people can arrive at once..)

his could let voters connect on their own. It could take on a social/gaming aspect: will you go with your neighbors, your friends from work, or your sports club (etc). This would make it a nice build on the idea that elections are social, but also be practical and easy to implement.

Foursquare and the Voter Information Project joined up to create "I voted" badges. Maybe this could extend that in some way.

Ramanand Janardhanan

February 25, 2012, 02:07AM
Thanks for pointing to the badge project - we could extend this thought to other markers, online (twitter/facebook will add a badge/turn your page's colour from red to green when you've voted) and offline (bumper stickers for the car/badges for all the car-pool-mates are given at the voting venue after you've finished).

Daniel Dore

February 23, 2012, 07:09AM
In Cities, it may be easier to pick up more people at once...

If you have multiple registered voters in one apartment building, you can make just one stop... You could also have someone in each building see who else needs a ride within the building. So, people in the building can do some of the legwork.

You could also see ahead of time (weeks in advance) who will need a ride within that building - or closeby... so, you can have a bigger or smaller vehicle ready to pick up as many people as you anticiptate.

On picking people up - you could also see if Bus Companies, and/or Van companies would donate vehicles just for Election Day. This way you could have the bigger vehicles at the ready.

You could have a car with an extra spot or two... but with a van, you could have an extra 5-7 spaces. And, 20+ extra spots with a bus.


In rural areas, you'll have to be prepared to drive longer, to pick up less people...


All votes count equally in the end.

Ramanand Janardhanan

February 24, 2012, 02:27AM
Daniel - thanks. yes, this doesn't necessarily have to be planned on the day of the voting and as you say, can be begun in advance. Anything to remove the mobility obstacle. I'm sure there would be volunteers willing to go out of their way to get people.


February 22, 2012, 18:18PM
Congrats on this post being today's onsite Featured Concept!

Ramanand Janardhanan

February 23, 2012, 04:15AM
Thanks! Have also updated the post to include the many suggestions that have come in.

Paul Reader

February 22, 2012, 05:56AM
Like other comments here this is a very good idea.
I can imagine a bumper sticker "We Pool Our Vote - join us -"

Anne-Laure Fayard

February 22, 2012, 03:39AM
Like others I like the idea of building upon people and self-organizing systems. Vincent's idea of building upon carpooling organizations is a great one as it might make the process easier. Not only it would make easier for people to go, but maybe create a gentle pressure to go... You could image a website where you could search or ask for a car ride based on the location of your poll (assuming that the system of the poll and an assigned poll is our context).
Ashley also noted on another concept how the social aspect of your concept could nicely be connected to the idea of elections as a community celebration:

Qiu Yi

February 21, 2012, 21:42PM
I like the social aspect of this - there's no additional official government/state/electoral structure that's being created. People's support for the people's voice!

Ramanand Janardhanan

February 22, 2012, 01:37AM
Thanks - that's what appeals to me as well :) Self-organising and decentralised systems should make it possible for people to have a feeling of contributing to the democratic process, beyond just voting.

Vincent Cheng

February 21, 2012, 19:02PM
Nice thought to scale up carpooling for elections Ramanand.

In various countries including the US, I think this could be a great partnership/initiative for carpooling/ridesharing organizations like : they would promote election day carpooling to allow everyone to vote, and if they usually charge any matching fees, they could waive them for just that day (probably pretty small impact anyways, considering the relatively short distance of these rides).

Altogether, this would provide the social benefits of increased voting & carpooling, while also introducing people to these organizations' carpooling matching systems.

Ramanand Janardhanan

February 22, 2012, 01:35AM
Thanks for pointing to It hadn't struck me that an agency like this could also promote carpooling by being associated with such important days, so it's a very useful idea.

Meena Kadri

February 22, 2012, 05:19AM
Great discussion guys. RJ: if there are any comments that you feel you would like to add & develop into your concept you can do so throughout the challenge using the Update Entry button up there on the right. When it comes to evaluation, it's helpful if all the fab ideas which have been discussed have been incorporated into the concept form. Bring on the builds!

Jaskeerat Bedi

February 21, 2012, 06:58AM

Ramanand Janardhanan

February 21, 2012, 07:24AM
Jaskeerat :) as you probably know, Indian parties have always been good at mobilising their supporters; hence there are restrictions on taking people in groups.

My idea is hopefully to help ordinary people, esp. in other places where political mobilisation isn't as 'sophisticated', and assuming no political bias.

The other difference is not paying for this service and getting people to voluntarily offer their help.

Meena Kadri

February 21, 2012, 05:49AM
Nice thinking to leverage existing resources, Ramanandan.

Meena Kadri

February 21, 2012, 05:49AM
Ooops! I meant Ramanand – feel free to misspell my name anytime you like ;^)

Ramanand Janardhanan

February 21, 2012, 05:53AM
Thanks Meena. And as for the name, I'm used to it :) Your's is kinder to the keyboard!
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