Voters in Georgia's June 9th election can return their absentee ballots at drop box without a stamp or any human contact. How do they find the closest one?
Access to timely information on early voting options improves voter turnout. But it's hard to collect that information with limited people, time and money. Organizers are using crowdsourcing and mapping to help Georgia voters. How can these innovations be applied elsewhere as well?
1. How to crowdsource information (like drop box locations) with volunteers
2. How to design systems that offer voters in a convenient form
3. Designing resilient systems to cope with sudden voting locations changes or closures
Georgia election background
"Several voters have expressed concern that the virus would still be a problem on June 9, when Georgians are set to go to the polls to vote for party nominees. State election officials have sent absentee ballot request forms to 6.9 million active registered voters. But some voting rights groups say that requiring voters to provide their own postage during the virus outbreak is an unconstitutional barrier to the right to vote.
A lawsuit filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union asks a judge to order that prepaid postage be provided. Drop boxes could provide another contactless way for voters to return ballots in person without needing a stamp. But for now it will be optional for counties — and it could be up to them to pay for the drop boxes as well." - U.S. News
Three groups are working to get Georgia voters the information they need for the June 9th election. The Georgia Peanut Gallery is an informal information source for Georgia's elections systems. It compiled a list of County Drop Box locations from the Secretary of State website and by contacting local elections offices in Georgia. Reclaim our Vote and Power Coalition for Equity and Justice have created a free, interactive map of drop box and early voting locations.
Groups use different approaches to provide info to voters. Here are some pros and cons of each:
The Georgia Peanut Gallery provides a list of drop boxes on its web page as HTML code. This form of presenting information is effective but hard to update. Voters have to make separate queries to find ballot drop boxes and early voting locations.
The Secretary of State web site offers Advanced Polling locations from a database which makes it easier to update. Searching for information on the site from a phone isn't easy and it does not include details on drop box locations.
A well designed system lets users quickly find the information they're looking from any device, and they're easy to update. A system to help voters has similar requirements, support crowdsourcing and easy to update if voting locations are suddenly changed to closed.
1. Minimize the number of clicks needed to find information
2. Let users get answers in one search instead of multiple queries
3. Make sure that results display well on phones, tablets and laptops
4. Package information so it's easy for partners to co-brand and share it further
5. Design the system so it is easy to update quickly
How this system was built
Reclaim Our Vote designed this system in two days using mostly free software.
1. Volunteers enter drop box and early voting location details in a Google Sheets.
2. Locations are converted into latitude/longitude locations using a free service from Geocod.io.
3. An interactive map is generated with this information using ArcGIS. The map is continuously refreshed and displays well on both phones and laptops.
"Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." - Murphy's Law
"The city of Milwaukee has nearly 300,000 registered voters, yet its available polling places on election day were reduced from 180 to five." - CNN
"... as a cold political calculation – fewer people would turn out to vote in person. People waited hours in line in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Waukesha to vote on election day." - The Guardian
Access to information can be used to suppress the vote. Design systems to cope with scattered information sources and last minute changes to polling locations. Learn more here.
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