Voter Help Hub: A Cental System Connecting Voters, Volunteers and Information
Voter Help Hub System is a secured network that connects, alerts and coordinates volunteers of areas needing assistance. Information is aggregated from voting survey data indicating disability assistance needs in specific communities to vote.
Voting polls usually report how many people have voted after the polls are closed. But if there was a way for us to leverage real-time information on the polling centers and communities who vote as well as those who don't to find ways to bridge this gap. One way is to do so is to create an alert for those who need extra assistance with the voting process that day and be matched with a local community member who can volunteer their time. Volunteers help by guiding the person to the polling center as well as the voting process. There are opportunities for partnerships with city government, public transportation and local private businesses to get involved by providing transportation to local polling centers. Voting is important not only on a national level, but local level. The more involved community members become and by encouraging others to vote, the more they make direct and meaningful change.
How will this concept improve election accessibility for everyone?
The Voter Help Hub System collects data from polling surveys to show the areas of need and connects people who need assistance getting to polling centers and during the voting experience. This system will provide transparency and immediate response for people on voting day. Public transportation, taxi services and voting vans will be available to transport people to their local polling center. Getting people to vote together increases the importance and community building that lacks from current voting experiences. Community members can volunteer and can get rewards from local businesses for volunteering. The system brings people together and reminds us all that voting is an important part of being a citizen regardless of disabilities. This idea is a great opportunity to collaborate on an app like "Buy Locally, Connect Locally" where volunteers can redeem their rewards at local business that are featured.
Scenario with personas:
Leigh, a freelance writer who works at home. She likes to get involved in community activities whenever she can. Knowing that elections are coming up, she overhears a conversation at the local coffee shop between George and Angela about how difficult it is to vote because of disabilities.
She had no idea that people were having a very difficult time getting to the polling centers. She goes to the library and sees a new program called Voter Help Hub. She learns that she can volunteer the day of and help those with different types of disabilities get to and from polling centers as well as guide them through the voting process. She marks her availability and her location within a 5 mile radius. She sees her neighborhood's voting record is not that great compared to other areas. She gets her friends linked via social media networks to also sign up. For signing up and volunteer referrals, she gets a rewards to local businesses, which is a nice perk. She gets a quick training on what to expect and the brief overview on the type of disabilities she can assist with and where the local public transportation hubs are located.
The day of, the Voter Help Hub updates on how well neighborhood polling centers are doing. As Leigh expected, her community is low. She gets an alert via email of someone with a disability who needs assistance nearby. She meets George at his home. Leigh then escorts him to a nearby public transportation stop to the polling center. Since George needs to bring his notes, Leigh assists George through the polling center and gets a private booth that he is able to sit down and vote further away from the regular open voting stations. He feels more at ease knowing he was able to get extra help and time to vote with the help of someone in the neighborhood.
How well does this concept adapt to the changing needs of different voter communities?
The Voter Help Hub System lets the community know of the specific area of need whether in a small town or large city. People with disabilities can call into the automatic system or enter via online to the Voter Help Hub hotline and a volunteer will be alerted that best matches the time for both volunteer and voter. Some areas are in greater need and may need more volunteers. Ultimately the system will show people how they can help their fellow community members go through the voting process. Volunteers from different backgrounds will leverage their own knowledge and involvement in various communities.
The majority of people surveyed about volunteering said what would motivate them most to donate time is to make the opportunity convenient for them. Another reason was if the opportunity made a direct impact to their neighborhood. Voter Help Hub System makes it easy to volunteer in people's community and by providing their available times, they are scheduled to help. Unlike most volunteer opportunities, people may end up sitting around and not using people's times effectively. There's more work to be done to inform people about the why this cause is important, which is another big reason why people volunteer.
What kinds of resources – whether time, money, people, partnerships, technology or otherwise – will be needed to get this concept off the ground?
The first phase of the Voter Help Hub System can be locally organized on a grassroots level. People can volunteer their time with local organizations who support people with disabilities. Volunteers can mobilize together with their own vehicles and provide transportation to polling centers or help individuals with public transportation such as via MeetUp gatherings.
Local government will provide a day of free public transportation to encourage voters to get to their polling centers. Taxi and car services will receive monetary benefits if they join the program. Partnerships will be made with disability vans. Awareness of this is important and working not only locally, but nationally.
Training will also be necessary for volunteers and polling centers. From the feedback, training and resources will be made available for volunteers and polling centers. There could a central Wiki page for crowded-sourced information and advice in preparation for Election Day from other volunteers and voters. A quick 1-2 hour course could be offered. Upon completion, volunteer become certified in the system. Working in pairs will also be encouraged as well. The Voter Help Hub can also work in conjunction with the concept of Support community of Poll Stations & Workers: http://www.openideo.com/open/voting/concepting/create-a-support-community-of-poll-stations-workers/
It's difficult to get people to find time to volunteer let alone contribute to a cause, so finding a balance in making this process easy is important and giving them a sense of accomplishment and ability to make a direct impact and difference in the voting process as well as people's lives. In recruiting volunteers, word of mouth will be crucial. The incentives will also be an added bonus. Many people from a survey about charitable giving that I conducted for a different project noted that the belief in the cause was their top reason for giving. In giving options to donate time, money, resources or other, the majority of people said they would give money. Building in a way for people to also donate to provide necessary funding for this system if they don't have time to help could a nice alternative. Another factor that would greatly help get people to volunteer is knowing that this system is a reputable. Having other nonprofit and organizations as well as government agencies support the system will help establish the credibility for volunteers and voters.
To develop the Voter Help Hub System, a secure online platform will be required. It will need money for the initial development and developers and designers to make. Content management will also be needed and people to answer calls the day of. The system will collect information from polling surveys about how many people have voted in the community throughout the day and areas that need assistance. Volunteers and organizations who can help will register with the system. They will get an alert to their phone of a specific local need in their area for the times they are available. Volunteers must register before and will get background checks and provide references. Volunteers go through an online tutorial or community meet up of what to expect and ways to help people in different situations. Polling centers will also be made aware of the volunteer roles and act as an liaison between the center and voter. Additionally, information of various polling centers will report back data in real-time as people vote. This will help inform areas of need and assistance that may lack resources. Providing meaningful visualizations will add to the urgency and importance of voting too.
The polling center will be connected into this system. This will allow polling centers to report real-time information of the services they do and do not provide through the central hub as well as if report if their community needs additional help from volunteers.
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Idea submitted by:
T. Annie Nguyen
February 27, 2012,