The Challenge


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


Long lines waiting to vote

One problem I see with elections are the long lines to vote. This makes voting inconvenient and difficult if you don't have time, patience, or energy to stand in a long line.
Lots of places do things to reduce the time you need to spend in line. Restaurant's let you make reservations or notify you wirelessly when your table is ready; some government offices post their wait time online so you can decide when is the best time to visit. And Disney World has all sorts of programs to make waiting in line easier or at least less stressful. Can we learn how to make this better from some other service?

Image credit: Flickr user adria.richards
Mission #3 Understand the Democratic Process


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Ting-Han Huang

February 20, 2012, 07:55AM
I might be less motivated to vote if I have to wait in long lines!
There aren't a lot of complaints about long voting lines in my country. I think the main reason is that everyone has their designated polling station, and less than 1,500 voters are assigned to each station. In addition, your designated polling station is mostly close to your home, so if you think the line is a little bit long, you might decide to go home, take a rest and come back later.

Johan Löfström

January 31, 2012, 15:25PM
I remembered CarrotMob, (from a previous challenge on OpenIDEO) They had some great ideas on how to make waiting in line more fun. watch this video as inspiration, jump into 4minutes and 22 seconds if you just want to see the queuing :

watch the whole video if you never heard about CarrotMob

I think there could be some rules in elections against letting politicians doing campaign in and around the polling stations. but it could maybe be done with independent organisations setting up music, other entertaining events...

Laura Espiau

February 02, 2012, 23:09PM
Are politicians in your country doing campaign on the election day?? In mine (Spain), not only is forbidden to do so, but the previous day to the election is 'reflection day' and neither party can do campaign (neither on the streets, nor in the media). Nor any political demonstration can take place on that day. Have you that 'reflection day' too?

Ting-Han Huang

February 20, 2012, 07:27AM
Laura, we also have "reflection night" in Taiwan! At the day before election, all campaigns are supposed to end at 10PM, or they will be fined. However, in the past there were candidates who didn't end the campaigns on time, because they think the fine was worthwhile for the extra time...

T. Annie Nguyen

January 31, 2012, 03:53AM
I've had to wait in lines in the past, which like many other people noted is not a fun experience. I'm wondering how we can think of ways to improve that experience to make it more comfortable and informational?

Johan Löfström

January 30, 2012, 21:31PM
I guess this is a problem with a vote on only one single day. We in sweden used to have vote on sundays. But during the 1990's the system changed to also include pre-voting if you were somehow busy during the election-sunday.

Nowadays you can vote by mail, and also polling stations are set up in public libraries, city halls, up to a month in advance (if you are working abroad, or planning a holiday trip) so you could more easily schedule your vote during work hours or whenever.

And IF you would change your mind during the last week of debates, you could go and vote on the voting-sunday, and only that last vote would count, and nullify your pre-cast vote. (but hardly anyone does change party-allegiance so close anyway)

this is for the low-tech approach, obviously online voting system would not require any travelling or standing waiting in line at all. So you could do that from work or from your couch.

T. Annie Nguyen

January 31, 2012, 03:47AM
It's nice to hear about the flexibility and options Sweden provides!

Andy Janssen

January 30, 2012, 06:12AM
I was in Columbus, Ohio in November 2004 during the general election. As can probably be expected in this key battleground state, the lines on election day were longer than can be imagined (hundreds deep) and turnout was extremely high (plus it was raining at a decent pace!). While it was encouraging seeing so many people dedicated to their voting rights, it was nevertheless disappointing to see the ramifications of high turnout. Those with disabilities suffer from long waits and bad weather disproportionately. Rapid ballot casting is critical to the success of the current system (which uses physical ballots to deter hacking). Allowing people, should they choose, to bring ballots which are pre-filled out at home and need only be confirmed/submitted on site would save minutes per person and dramatically speed up the process.

Sarah Fathallah

January 29, 2012, 12:34PM
I'm also thinking: how about those people in fast food restaurants that come to you while you're in line to ask for what you want to order and send the order wirelessly to the kitchen? Is there anything we can learn from this experience as well?

Andy Janssen

January 30, 2012, 06:15AM
Nice thought Sarah. I don't think we even need to go to those extremes... why not let them (if they choose) fill out their ballots at home before hand if they wish (print them, like southwest does with boarding passes). Then they can simply come in submit in person at a much faster rate. My comment above elaborates.

Sarah Fathallah

January 30, 2012, 20:12PM
Hi Andy. Absolutely! Just throwing ideas out there to help us push our thoughts a bit further and not settle for one solution. The more the better!

Laura Espiau

January 28, 2012, 11:12AM
Hi! Like Carly, I never had to wait in line to vote neither. I live in Spain and polling stations are also everywhere (schools, high-schools, neighborhood center's, etc). And there is not a really advanced technology being used for voting. There are just paper lists with the names of all the people in that area of the city, and besides the name, you can see in which of the four our five tables of the polling station you have to go to vote. I guess that this is also avilable online, but I never used it, I just go to the station and look for my name on the list!


January 27, 2012, 22:09PM
I live in Canada & I have never had to wait in line to vote so this comes as a shock to me! Maybe more polling stations are needed so each location is responsible for less people overall? I have voted in schools, church basements, community centres... I think it's important to note that polling stations don't require a ton of set up so they can be almost anywhere with designated space!

Ramanand Janardhanan

January 27, 2012, 07:40AM
Great point. Waiting in lines is a big turn-off for many who cite it as an easy excuse to put off going to vote. Social media and messaging tools could be put to great use here as well.
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