Case Study

Institutional Ethnography for Voter Experience

How can election offices create a more seamless service experience for voters?

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An engaged electorate is the bedrock of government accountability in democratic societies. But electoral participation is often limited by systems that are out of sync with the expectations of 21st century voters. In the United States in particular, finding out how to vote, when to vote, and where to vote is too often a test of jumping through bureaucratic hoops. TurboVote, a nonprofit, nonpartisan civic tech startup, is dedicated to changing this status quo.

During the 2012 election cycle TurboVote’s one-stop online voter registration service registered almost 200,000 voters. In early 2013, TurboVote prioritized developing new products and services that could directly support the work of the thousands of local elections offices nationwide. TurboVote engaged Reboot to explore the state of elections administration in the United States and provide a set of strategic recommendations to inform the organization’s future offerings targeting local elections offices. This project led to the development of a ballot tracking tool for the 2016 election cycle.

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In the United States, the mechanics of democracy are due for modernization. Each of the country’s more than 10,000 election jurisdictions has its own unique systems and processes that define the voting experience locally. On Election Day, long lines, registration obstacles, and machine failures further plague the American voting experience. When voting becomes problematic and frustrating, electoral participation suffers.

“There were thousands of people waiting in line to register to vote. We never recovered from processing all those registrations.”

—Boone County, MO Election Clerk reflecting on her first presidential election cycle.

TurboVote launched in 2010 to create a more seamless service experience for voters. Partnering with universities around the country, TurboVote’s one-stop online service registered almost 200,000 voters during the 2012 election cycle. In early 2013, TurboVote prioritized finding ways to partner directly with government to expand the impact of its technology. Specifically, TurboVote aimed to develop new products and services that could support the work of the 8,000 plus local elections administrators who collectively define the American voting experience. TurboVote engaged Reboot to explore the state of elections administration in the United States and provide a set of strategic recommendations to inform the organization’s future offerings targeting elections offices around the country.

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Modernizing the Mechanics of American Democracy

06.26.2013 | Kate Krontiris