From longer-than-expected lines to technological fumbles, voting polls in urban cities are typically a gnarly mess on Election Day — sometimes causing some voters to end up discouraged and ultimately skip out. Sad, but true. In response to this still-too-common situation, the Van Alen Institute launched the “Open Poll” flash competition, wherein interdisciplinary teams were invited to submit design proposals that create a more accessible, engaging voting experience for all.
The three finalist teams presented their proposals to the judges and the public got to watch and vote for their favorite entry. By the end of the one-day charrette, the winning team was announced.
Have a look at the finalist entries below.
Winner: “Voting at Your Fingertips: A National Celebration of the Democratic Process”
Team: Racha Daher, Alexandra Gonzalez, and Elena Kapompasopoulou
Project description: “The current voting process is inefficient, strenuous, wasteful, non-inclusive, and prone to human error. This proposal aims to change the way the voting process works, so that it is easier and inclusive, and is accurate, secure and transparent. It aims to change the mindset of the voting experience so that it becomes a national celebration of the democratic process, strengthening social and community ties.
To do this several strategies are to be implemented:
1. Digitalize the voting platform to facilitate the democratic voting experience (multi-step identity verification: SSN number, fingerprints, photo).
2. Increase number of public institutions that serve as polling stations (churches, post offices, libraries, city halls, schools).
3. Change the voting day to Sunday to allow all-day family events.
4. Transform parks and public spaces into event areas, re-engaging in activities, while broadcasting voting results to promote transparency.
5. Utilize street infrastructure for political engagement.
6. Hold national festivities to celebrate the democratic process.”
Finalist Proposal: “In Between the Lines”
Team: Larissa Begault and Julia Borowicz
Project description: “Most voting in NYC takes place in public schools, which provides an opportunity for civic engagement to occur within these educational institutions. Our proposal offers a curriculum of collective storytelling and cultural archiving. Given the current political rhetoric around national identity we need to reflect on diversity. This curriculum engages parents through excavating their histories while empowering children as the future generation of voters. Students collect their family history, highlighting diverse heritages across the U.S. Once workshopped, the stories become an interactive artifact distributed to voters in line. Showcasing their plurality allows neighbors to find common ground through unexpected conversations around identity and difference. Addressing these themes bridges challenges around belonging and citizenship. This proposal offers an occasion to reflect on what unites us.”
Finalist Proposal: “Re-thinking Urban Elections”
Team: Vahhab Aboonour and George Dimos
Project description: “Our proposal examines the importance of public spaces, like parks, plazas or college campuses, as democratic archetypes promoting social interaction and political education. We are re-thinking the poll site, incorporating elements from the ancient Greek agora and the Parisian café scene, as a place where political conversation can spontaneously occur. We propose that Election Day becomes a national holiday that both public and private organizations respect. Voters are therefore given more time to travel to their poll sites and share views with their communities. Furthermore, the private sector can actively participate in the electoral process, with college campuses serving as poll sites, and students working at the polls, getting paid through their work- study awards. Voting then becomes an educational and celebratory public event.”
Images and quoted text courtesy of Van Alen Institute.
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