March 4, 2013

Six American Cities, Six Weeks: Understanding Elections Offices on our Home Turf

Last week, Reboot kicked off a fantastic new collaboration with our friends at TurboVote.

Three years ago, TurboVote set out to make the voting process as easy as ordering a DVD on Netflix. Their team developed the technology to enable voters to register to vote right from the comfort of their homes – and amassed an impressively detailed knowledge bank about the landscape of United States elections regulations. If you sign up for TurboVote, you also receive free SMS and email reminders about upcoming elections.

The goal was to remove as many barriers to civic engagement as possible, through the strategic use of everyday technology. Leading up to this last election, TurboVote registered just shy of 200,000 voters – mostly through a dazzling array of partnerships with colleges, universities, and get-out-the-vote groups that had an interest in registering large numbers of voters.

A non-profit and non-partisan organization, TurboVote has started 2013 by reflecting on its original ambitions for impact, realizing that in order to truly revolutionize the way voting happens in the United States, it must engage more directly with institutions of governance.

This is where Reboot comes in. Over the next few months, Reboot will be travelling to elections offices in six different locations across the country. We will be meeting with a sample of the 8,000 local agencies that determine how elections are run, seeking to understand the technological and human processes that underpin the US voter experience. We will gather this information by mapping the voter registration and vote-by-mail service journeys, by conducting institutional ethnography with elections clerks, and by identifying system pain points that make the voter experience burdensome. We also expect to surface – and share! – some bright spots in the voter experience, learning from local offices that genuinely embody a strong user-oriented approach to citizen engagement.

Coming out of this investigation, we hope to pinpoint opportunities to match TurboVote‘s existing technology to the needs of elections offices. In the long term, it is our hope that these small-scale process improvements will lead to large-scale changes in the way that everyday voters like us experience democracy.

We will be kicking off in Boone County, Missouri in mid-March and expect to be sharing what we learn along the way.  We hope you’ll join us on the ride!

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