Many people don't vote because they can't get to their polling center. Several groups offer rides, but requesting a ride is often the bottleneck. Many rural voters have neither internet access nor a cell phone. Disabilities prevent others from using keyboards. How can requests for rides be managed efficiently when a landline is the only option?
Andrea Miller is a veteran organizer and the founding Board Member of Center For Common Ground in Virginia. It empowers people of color, seniors and those with disabilities to vote. She explained how an affordable solution to field requests for rides could increase rural voter turnout.
Chatbots to the rescue
DemLabs designed a solution that would allow voters to request rides to the polls verbally from their landlines. They are asked a series of questions to get all the details needed to arrange a ride. The information is transcribed automatically and texted to the ride coordinator. We chose Twilio for this solution. Its technology is extremely versatile and powers services such as Uber, Lyft and AirBnB. Try the 'Get-A-Ride chatbot' by calling 559-206-0210 and pretend to request a ride. (In this demo, you'll be texted a transcription of the information you provided.)
- DemLabs works with progressive groups (such as Center For Common Ground) to understand their needs. We look for issues that, once solved, can help many progressive groups.
- We research existing, affordable technology platforms (such as Twilio) and adapt it to meet the needs of the project.
- West the solution with the requesting group to make sure it works well and refine it, if needed.
- We openly share the solution design and the software used so that other groups can also apply it. (This knowledge transfer is done through the DemLabs Bulletin, website and workshops).
- Using an existing software platform to develop a solution slashes the time and cost involved.
- The platform is continually enhanced with new features - regardless of the election cycle.
- Experts with skills on that platform are available for ongoing support and changes.
Uber announced that it's offering free rides to the polls for those people who say transportation barriers are the reason they don't vote. It also created a polling place button to help voters more easily find where they need to go to cast their ballot on Tuesday, November 6th.
Lyft is also working on get-out-the-vote initiatives. It announced that it will offer half-priced rides to all voters in the US on Election Day. Rides will be free for under served communities and those voters with transportation barriers.
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