Field Diary: For Innovative Legislation on the Front End, States Need Reliable People and Processes on the Backend
Well, folks, the TurboVote and Reboot local elections research roadshow has come to close.
We’ve got gobs and gobs of data, which we’ll look forward to parsing through over the coming week to develop clarity around our findings (more on that soon!). But for now, we’d like to our musings from our final research stop: the City and County of Denver Elections Division in Colorado.
In the “Centennial State,” (named so for its admission into the nation 100 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence), 72 percent of the voting population statewide votes by mail. If things go as expected, new legislation will make Colorado an all mail-ballot state, in time for next year’s midterm elections.
For those of you unfamiliar with voting by mail, this means that voters in Colorado can request a ballot be sent to them via the … Read More »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
The results are in!
Since November 6, we’ve been hard at work digesting the data we received from Pollwatch. We kicked off the Pollwatch project at the PDF:Applied hackathon last year in collaboration with Websava and Common Cause NY to uncover and alleviate the challenges that voters face on election day.
With inauguration day two weeks away, we thought it was a good time to share what we learned.
The verdict? Voting is much harder than it should be.
We received hundreds of reports on Pollwatch, revealing many areas for improvement in the voting process. But one problem in particular took the cake with one third of all reports: wait times (2 hours on average among those that reported the issue and up to 5 hours in one instance).
Importantly, wait times are symptomatic of other issues, and the Pollwatch reports provided some insight into what those issues might be. For example, many reports … Read More »
Reboot was founded to realize open, inclusive, and participatory platforms for human development. Working with the world’s leading institutions, we sought to work towards a 21st century social contract.
2012 has been an incredible year for us toward reaching these goals. The end of the year is always a nice period of reflection, and we thought we’d share some highlights from our year.
We started 2012 with an article in Touchpoint: the Journal of Service Design discussing our belief that improving services is the key to realizing human rights in practice. Services matter because it is largely through these relationships between citizens and institutions where human outcomes are improved. To affect social change, the right policies are important – and we do plenty of work on those. But, ultimately, we frequently return to services because they are where ‘the rubber hits the road’.
That … Read More »
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 »