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Improving the voting system in the US 

problem space

Increase participation and help a newly eligible voter understand what and how of a complex voting system

our take / approach

Understanding context >> Knowing the user >> Framing insights >> Exploring concepts >> Frame solutions >> Strategy roadmap

team and role

I worked alongside 2 people on this project. While I took the lead on research design, the  process was highly collaborative, with the outputs arrived at collectively during our sessions.  

organisation

Institute of Design

understanding context

We used several methods to inform our understanding of the context, including trends matrix, from-to exploration, eras map, analogous models, descriptive value web and an extensive journey map. 

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initial frame

Changing voting from a discrete set of activities, considered cumbersome, exclusionary and prone to inaccuracies, to a seamless delivery of voter related services

knowing the user

After creating a participant map, we decided to focus on first time voters and non voters in the 18 - 29 age group. Among this segment, we conducted interviews to understand: 

- Associations with voting using mind map and laddering

 

- Journey of last experience with registration, preparing to vote and voting: method used, pain points and uncertainties

 

- Triggers and barriers to vote

 

- Influencers

Additionally, secondary research told us:

42%

18%

37% 

18-24 year olds

were not registered to vote

in 2016

of voters, and

of non voters were between 18 - 29 years old in 2018

framing insights and problem statements

Our findings fell under two main buckets:

1. There is a lack of motivation to vote, and

2. the system is hard to navigate for those that do want to vote

We dug into each of these to understand them better

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User observation database and insight generation

Insight clustering and forming connections between clusters

Insights into why the youth doesn't vote:

// They do not see the relation between voting and the impact on their future.

// Not feeling represented well enough by either candidate.

//  A feeling of “my vote doesn’t count”: the system favors the rich and powerful, I'm not in a swing state, independent candidates won't win.

// Politics not being a part of discussion while growing up removes voting from consideration.

- I never voted when I turned 18..I didn’t vote until I was like 27 because I never realized that it is effecting me, my life, my paycheck, my taxes, my benefits.

EX NAVY, CURRENT STUDENT IN CHICAGO

HOW MIGHT WE

increase desire to participate in the voting process

But what happens when they want to vote?

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different methods of registration​

There are different methods of voting​

Who are the candidates and what they stand for​

What makes it hard?

// The voting process, with multiple methods of registration, casting a ballot, and aspects to be voted on, is a highly complex and overwhelming system, that the newly eligible voter has difficulty navigating.

// System expects active information seeking and high level of motivation /engagement preparation rather than allowing for passive behavior.

//  News channels often focus on politics rather than giving a roadmap to voting, “other things” you are voting on are not visible.

// Influences are not always informed themselves

// Young voters are far removed / distanced from the commonly known existing mediums of information dissemination, like newspapers.

// Websites that give info in a consumable way are few and not well known

exploring concepts

There are different things you will be voting on​

How to impact the choice of candidate by voting in the primaries

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IDEATION SESSION

We conducted an ideation session with our 2 "How Might We" statements through several activities. Some broad themes that came out:

- Developing a sense of community around voting

- Public commitment to vote, especially tapping social media

- Removal of mail based services

- Simplifying candidate research

- Simulations

CONCEPT CATALOGUE

Clustering individual ideas from the ideation session, we created a concept catalogue with 20 concepts.

View the entire concept catalogue here

framing solutions

2 teams ideate on the 2 "How might we" statements before sharing and building on each other's ideas

Roles - think from the perspective of a teacher, a parent, a gym trainer, and even analogous models like Uber!

Map ideas from previous exercises into a matrix of design principles, and even develop new ones.

We then scored each of the concepts

1. Against design principles

2. On impact and challenge in implementation 

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Based on scoring, as well as our qualitative judgements, we arrived at our final solutions, which were a combination of several concepts. A 3 part systemic solution, where each part supports the other parts, but may be implemented individually as well  

plant a seed

HIGHLIGHTS

features

  • Civics curriculum now involves research on issues and candidates up for vote. 

  • Debates and discussion in class create intrigue and room to discover impact of voting on self.

  • Simulation close to election helps understand process

  • Participation in poll voter competition increases overall interest

problems the solution tackles​

  • Youth doesn't see how voting effects 'them'

  • Not aware of candidates or positions on issues

  • Don’t know what to expect from an overwhelming system

design principles 

  • Flexible for different levels of knowledge and engagement

  • Make things tangible: impact on "my life" and system

  • Make system less overwhelming

  • Leverage the influencer

behavioral economics principles

  • Remove obstacles to action

  • Dial up motivation

  • Reduce complexity

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Ms. Banks, a high school civics class teacher, asks students to read about different candidates and issues each week.

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voter kit

HIGHLIGHTS

features

  • Next steps on how and where to cast ballot.

  • Sample ballot showing the candidates up for vote, along with introduction to VoteAmerica app

  • Friends and family coupons, badges, t-shirts, bands and other custom identifier to create feeling of community

 

problem it tackles​

  • Maintain interest

  • Not aware of candidates or positions on issues

design principles 

  • Build trust in the system

  • Make system less overwhelming

behavioral economics principles

  • Reduce uncertainty

  • Stimulate action

  • Foster identity

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VoteAmerica app
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strategy roadmap
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