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October 11, 2013

Not So Final Blog Post

by kelseylim

Greetings!

It’s been a while since I last posted here, but that doesn’t mean Keela and I’s work has ended, nor slowed down. In fact, the end of the summer only signals the beginning of a new phase in our work, a project that has an indefinite end point. I will catch you up on the latter portion of our summer research, then delve further into what lies ahead for this project…

Keela traveled back home to Minnesota for the bulk of August, but we stayed in touch to continue our plans and research. When she returned in early September we jumped right back into work mode, starting with a meeting with Danny Chapman. Danny Chapman is a government design and usability expert who is “passionate about web standards, open government, and improving citizen to government interactions online.” He was also selected as a Presidential Innovation Fellow for Project MyGov as part of the new White House Presidential Innovation Fellows program. Currently he works with NIC, an eGovernment provider that has contracts with thirty states and is responsible for the redesign of RI.gov, Rhode Island’s official government web portal. As you can see, he was an ideal person for us to have a discussion with!

Once we sat down, Danny told us about his work and what he does for NIC and we filled him in on our project. The realm of technology within our research has been the one we were most unsure of, in terms of how feasible or reasonable it would be for us to try to get involved. There are many bureaucratic and security issues that surround voting technology, which can be intimidating for two college students. After talking to Danny, however, we discovered that there are some possibilities for change within reach (though I can’t go into details at this time). No solid plans were made, but we all promised to stay in touch as Keela and I look forward to the design portion of our project. Danny may prove to be an invaluable resource, asset and mentor to us, and we are very grateful that we were able to meet with him!

In September Keela and I also reached out to Oregon and Washington, two states that — through our research on best practices — have proved to be leaders in election design and innovation. Besides Illinois, which is where Marcia Lausen worked post-hanging chad, Oregon and Washington are the only two states that have ever had real living and breathing graphic designers working in their election offices. These Election Design Fellows were placed by AIGA (the professional association for design) through their Design for Democracy program. In an email from Don DeFord from the Oregon’s Elections Division, he told us that “we have really enjoyed having the benefits of having professional designers involved with our elections team.” We were able to chat with Tami Davis, Washington’s Voter Education and Outreach Manager, on the phone, where she shared her enthusiasm for having designers on staff. Washington’s first Design Fellow arrived in 2009 and while they currently don’t have one, they are seeking another in addition to pursuing the ability to have a designer positioned permanently.

Washington is a leader in best election design practices and Keela and I were blown away by their progressive practices. Not only do all of their thirty-nine counties have the Adobe Creative Suite, but the state also purchased the font-family Univers for use on their election materials!  The state also has MyVote, an online tool for citizens to look up their personal as well as general voting information. The state’s counties have a shared drive of election document templates and a forum where they can ask each other questions and share information, and there seems to be an overall attitude of forward and open thinking in Washington’s elections offices. As for their future endeavors, Davis shared the state’s desire for an elections result app, a MyVote phone app, an online voter handbook and mobile app. Our phone conversation left Keela and I impressed and excited by the potential for Rhode Island and other states if led by Washington’s example.

Keela and I are currently working on compiling all of our summer research into a book format, which we will present to the Board of Elections and Elections Division once completed. Our research is still not fully finished, however, and the book will be used as a resource for the next phase of our project, which Keela will go into in her blog post…

to be continued

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