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Improving voter turnout and enabling informed decisions 

problem space

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


The low percentage of youth voters made it important to understand attitude and barriers among non voters. Among voters, creating a journey map and timeline helped arrive at guiding principles

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.  


Institute of Design

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People  Design  Business

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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:




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

insights and re-framing the problem

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.



increase desire to participate in the voting process

But what happens when they want to vote? The voting system is a highly complex and overwhelming system, that the newly eligible voter has difficulty navigating

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Different methods of registration​

Different methods of voting​

Different things you will be voting on​

Who are the candidates and what they stand for​

How to impact the choice of candidate 

Insights into what makes it hard?

// 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


bring clarity on what to do and how to do go about the confusing process of voting

exploring concepts

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


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

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

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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


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

View the entire concept catalogue here


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.

We then scored each of concept against design principles, and impact and challenge in implementation 

plant a seed
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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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  • Civics curriculum now involves research on issues and candidates.

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

  • Simulation close to elections 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

Aaron’s family is quite active in political discussions, and he is familiar with some candidates.

Roan googles the candidate, but there is a LOT of news, and he doesn’t know where to begin.

Aaron and Roan read about views of two governor candidates, Dick Durbin, and Daniel Wilder on different issues..  

Aaron and Roan discuss the candidates views on firearms policy. Kelly realises impact of voting, and gets motivated

Close to elections, a simulation  of the  voting process prepares students.

He asks Ms. Banks for guidance. She recommends the VoteAmerica app.

voter kit
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  • 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

Kelly registered to vote 5 months ago. A Voter Kit arrived today, 8 weeks before the general election.

She opens the Voting Kit. Inside is a brochure on options on how to vote and where to vote.  

Kelly pulls out a sample ballot.  Here is info on how to learn about candidates VoteAmerica is one of them   

This is helpful. I didn't know there were so many ways to vote.

Last item in the kit is a pack of coupons and info on Friends & Family program.

VoteAmerica app
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A new system that allows biometric registration. No more printing, no more waiting to be registered. Be verified immediately

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Gives you information on location and also allows group creation to obtain benefits. Creates feeling of community and identity

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Voters enter their values on different issues during profile creation

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Visual map of candidates based on percentage of value match between candidate and voter. Voter can also add the candidate to their online ballot for easy reference.

strategy roadmap
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