Yesterday and today I am attending an Accessible Voting conference and we have had an interesting experience. We were broken into 4 groups, discussing different aspects of the voting process — from the pre-voting registration and voter information component through voting modes (remote and in-person) and ballot design.
The fascinating part of the experience was this: several groups independently agreed on the need for two things in the voting process. First, there should be more options for voting — early, absentee, and vote centers — because it provides individuals with special needs options for voting that can accommodate their needs. Second, and more interesting, several groups wondered why each of us do not have the ability to create a voter profile that specifies the voting experience we want to have.
Imagine that, when you registered to vote that, after you registered, there was a survey you were given. (Something similar could be done at a kiosk for in-person voting or be included as a scannable document in an absentee voting packet). The survey asked you your preferences for voting. The survey would ask you several things, such as:
1. I would like to receive a voter guide before the election. (by mail, via email)
2. I would like to receive a voter guide in large print.
3. I would like to receive a ballot in large print. (in-person or absentee)
4. I would like to be a permanent absentee voter.
5. I would like to receive a list of early voting locations.
6. I have a Handicap Parking permit and will need that parking at my polling place.
7. I will be using the accessible voting machine at my polling place.
8. I would like an email reminder of my polling location.
9. I would like an email notification that my absentee ballot was received.
The idea here is simple: people should be able to express their needs and wants (not assumption-based because a person is identified as blind or disabled) and the system would provide voters with a preference-enhanced experience. Some people don’t need a sample ballot but others need one in large print or an audio version. Some people may want to be permanent absentee voters and others may want to get a list of early voting centers in a text message.
This system should be dynamic — I can update my preferences easily using the Internet, the phone, or some other mechanism — and should reflect my needs.
I realize that there are a million details here: cost, state laws, etc. However, the interesting thing here is that it could be scalable: states could provide this service across local jurisdictions and utilize new services like print on demand for helping make this all work.