Field Diary: In the Land of Snowbirds, Reaching Out to the Youngest Voters

By Kate Krontiris // April 29, 2013

Each year, about 60 million people travel to the state of Florida, including one very special subset of visitors: “snowbirds.”

Florida-bound snowbirds are typically retirees from the northeast of the US who spend their winters in search of sunshine and warm weather. With no state income tax requirements, Florida also makes an attractive destination for formal residency, which means snowbirds can vote.

And vote they do.

Similar to older generations in most American states, Florida’s snowbirds are consistent and engaged voters. Turnout for the 2012 presidential election in Martin County, Florida–where Reboot’s elections research team traveled last week–was 78 percent.  Snowbirds like their ballots as much as they do their beaches, apparently.

But for all the influence snowbirds have on local elections here, the most interesting tidbit we learned from the Martin County Supervisor of Elections had nothing to … Read More »

Field Diary: In Travis County, Texas, “Each Election is an Opportunity to Test Something New”

By Kate Krontiris // April 15, 2013

This past week our research team traveled to Austin, Texas where we got a first-hand look at how Travis County runs its elections.

We spent time with the Travis County Tax Assessor’s Office, which oversees voter registration and districting activities. We also met with the Clerk’s Office, which is responsible for the implementation of elections. This quirky bureaucratic distinction is a relic of the days when Texas had a poll tax.

We arrived at an opportune time, coinciding with the announcement that Austin is soon to be the proud owner of high-speed internet, compliments of Google Fiber. The press was abuzz discussing the effects Google’s new technology will have on life and economy in this Texan city known largely for the annual SXSW conference.

We too got excited about Austin’s tech upgrade and its potential to impact local elections. … Read More »

Field Diary: Discovering Town Meeting (and Sugaring) in Vermont

By Kate Krontiris // April 8, 2013

In Vermont, March is the season for sugaring—it is when the days are warm and nights are cold that the maple sap starts flowing. In addition to sampling one of state’s better-known food products, our research team got a taste of some pure democracy last week, straight from the tap of “town meeting.”

Only seven states administer elections at the town level, and Vermont is one of them. The other 43 states administer by county. Town meeting—which takes the form of representative democracy in Brattleboro, Vermont—is when local officials are elected, annual budgets are approved, and other affairs are settled. We spent this past week with Brattleboro Town Clerk Annette Cappy, and her small but mighty team in the Clerk’s Office, learning how this approach structures local decision-making.

Brattleboro is unique among Vermont’s towns for holding Representative Town Meeting on the third … Read More »

Field Diary: It’s “Bipartisan Everything” in Jefferson County, Kentucky

By Kate Krontiris // April 1, 2013

From the seemingly unending stream of political brinksmanship emanating from Washington these days, you’d think the country has fallen into a state of partisan warfare. Refreshingly, our visit to Jefferson County’s Election Center this past week provided an encouraging outlook to the contrary.

In this office, dedicated Republicans and Democrats go to work, not to argue with each other, but to get the job done.

Jefferson County—home to the Louisville Cardinals, recently of Final Four fame—is the largest of Kentucky’s 120 counties, with a population of about 747,000 people. Roughly 67 percent of this population is registered to vote.

We were visiting at the invitation of County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw.

Bobbie’s responsibilities cover the usual fare, as far as  local election officials go. She is charged with running elections, in addition to a host of other important administrative activities, including overseeing motor vehicles, … Read More »

Field Diary: Peering into the Back-End of Voting in the “Show Me” State

By Kate Krontiris // March 25, 2013

If you are looking to tackle an information management and system dynamics challenge, become an elections administrator.

As we discovered last week in Boone County, Missouri, these individuals manage a series of paper and digital processes that track who is voting, where they vote, what ballots they need, whether their districts have changed, whether elections regulations have been updated, and hundreds of other pieces of information – sensitive and not – about our voting population.  They also schedule elections, recruit and train poll workers, establish polling locations, and update districting lines.  They do this at least once a year, and often multiple times per year.

Elections officials like Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren, are beholden to a variety of actors – voters, of course, but also Secretaries of State, and federal and state legislators.  Voters demand their services, Secretaries … Read More »

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

By Kate Krontiris // March 4, 2013

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 … Read More »

Toward a 21st Century Social Contract

By Ethan Wilkes // December 4, 2012

In a small office on East 20th Street in New York City, Reboot is working toward a social contract for the 21st century. We’re driven in this work, because the rules of the game are changing. An emboldened global citizenry, empowered by increased connectivity, is demanding more from its leadership: justice, accountability, a shot at a decent life, and a livelihood with dignity.

And, frankly, because we can do better.

Too many of the world’s people live in difficult, debilitating circumstances. Some factors are beyond our control. We cannot prevent the occurrence of droughts, floods, and earthquakes. Luck of the draw dictates whether we are born into a rich country or a poor one, with fertile soil or famine, with clean drinking water or waterborne diseases.

But many disasters are not random acts of fate. They are man-made, the products of bad decisions … Read More »

“If You Break It, You Fix It” and Other Creeds of the Young Makers Among Us

By Kate Krontiris // November 28, 2012

This blog post was one of the series we did for the “She Will Innovate” competition, launched by Intel Corporation and Ashoka Changemakers to find innovative technology solutions to enrich the lives of girls. In this series, we discussed the question of “What is a challenge to the women in your community and what solution have you found from within your own context and resources to address that challenge?” We welcome you to share and join the discussion with our thought leader Kate Krontiris in the Speak Up Space.

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I recently had the pleasure of meeting 11-year-old Raven Holston-Turner. The day I met her, she had henna tattoos all over her hands and was handling a digital soldering iron.

A native of Detroit, Raven solders badges that light up, creates gigantic puppets, and sews Indian saris. … Read More »

Repurposed Yangon

By Zach Hyman // October 23, 2012

This blog post is one of a series we are doing to host guest thinkers and researchers to participate in a broader conversation about designing for governance and development.  Today, we feature Zach Hyman, a Fulbright Fellow studying resource-constrained creativity and user-led innovation in China.  His fascinating piece takes us on a maker-hacker journey through Myanmar, where people are acting in very creative ways to manage the constraints of electricity.

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Myanmar’s offshore natural gas reserves – speculated to be as much as 90 trillion cubic feet – give it the tenth largest reserves on the planet.

And yet this number may as well be describing a different country to people such as Aung Tun,* who, despite living in a relatively wealthy part of Yangon, is still subject to the vagaries of the electrical grid. For the safety of … Read More »

Designing For Better Decision-Making

By Jeremy Canfield // October 12, 2012

Consider for a moment the line outside a half-empty nightclub or the “billions served” tagline. These indicators signal popularity, and they instigate that quiet but undeniable human urge to see what all the fuss is about. This phenomenon is known in social psychology and behavioral science circles as “social proof,” and it’s one of the mostly broadly acknowledged mental shortcuts we humans make. In short, it means that people look to others to uncover the proper action, especially in uncertain environs. This herding behavior happens without the benefit of conscious thought, and it has long been exploited by advertisers great and small. As social designers, knowing how this and other cognitive shortcuts work can mean the difference between a successful social intervention and one that falls flat.

A few weeks ago, Reboot had the honor of participating in StartupOnomics, an invitation-only … Read More »