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Designing a Better Electoral System--We Need Service Innovation.

Core77 Conference on Web 2.0 in Boston. |


| Beyond MySpace and Facebook--Pragmatic, Not Just Social, Networking.

November 05, 2006

Designing a Better Electoral System--We Need Service Innovation.

Bruce Nussbaum

Tuesday is the big day in America--elections-- and I wish we were applying design thinking to the electoral process as much as we are applying it to the business process. We are rushing to close the upcoming issue of Inside Innovation and one of the pieces we are thinking of running (haven't made the final cut of stories yet) is one on how design is being used to shape a better court experience for people representing themselves in small claims, divorce, landlord-tenant and other disputes. With the cost of lawyers so high for many people, they want/need to navigate the legal system themselves.

Good luck. The court system in the US is incredibly backward. But, the IN3 article shows, it can be made more accessible to people with a little help from an avatar, a digital translator and a map of where to go in the court building.

I vote these days in New York City and it's about as archaic as the court system. Political hacks work tables with huge books of names organized by county. People often don't know where to go to vote or how. It's simply ridiculous. In the past, especially in the South, politicians deliberately made it hard to vote to keep certain groups of people from gaining power. It's still true in some places in the country.

But the real problem is entropy. We can't seem to apply the modern techniques we use in designing better services to made voting easier. No wonder that less than 50% of the voting population votes in a Presidential election these days. That's pathetic and worrisome.

This is a huge challenge for democracy in America. As design thinking begins to break out of its business space into the wider social world, designing a better electoral system should be one of the highest priorities for us.

03:59 PM


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Actually, there are people and organizations working on the design of elections. UPA, STC, and Design for Democracy, a strategic program of AIGA, has been working on improving the voting systems in the US. All of these professional design organizations have been working with NIST, Election Assistance Commission, and the US Access Board to advocate and conduct usability studies and testing of voting systems, plain language and multilingual translations of government communications, and the information design of ballots, polling place signage, and voter registration forms. Government is catching up with design thinking but it is a long and diffused process.

Posted by: Dori Tunstall, Ph.D. at November 28, 2006 08:08 PM

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