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Design For Democracy


Today -- on election day -- it's going to be especially difficult to stick to my policy of not blogging about politics. There are plenty of political blogs out there already. Plus, I don't want to blow my cover. I get a kick out of people's mistaking me for a Republican because I (essentially always) wear khakis and a button-down. But I just got back from the polls, and I do want to talk about that experience.

I've been voting for twenty years now, and I think I'm finally getting the hang of it. It's not something you do very often, and you sort of have to relearn the process every time you do. I generally fumble my way through it, trying hard to act like I know exactly what I'm doing and who those people are standing behind the lunch table with big pads of official-looking forms that they move from one ledger to another and ask me to sign and mark with their initials and tuck away in protective sleeves before they hand one of the forms to me and send me out into the open basement of the local elementary school to find an open voting booth and the really confusing part begins....

In Chicago we still have punch card ballots -- yes, the ones with the hanging chads. And I just realized why they are so confusing. Not only do the little holes through which you have to punch the stylus not line up quite exactly with the names of the candidates, there's also no visual feedback. After you've stuck the stylus through what looks to be the hole closest to lining up with the candidate you're trying to vote for, and determined that you're pretty sure that you felt the thing go through the paper card, it's almost impossible to figure out which holes you've punched through. The unpunched holes look exactly like the punched out ones through the cover of the guide that keeps the card in place.

Whatever. I think I worked it out. What I wanted to say was that a couple of weeks ago, I saw a presentation by Dori Tunstall of Design for Democracy (and Arc Worldwide). She was speaking at an event called Mapping the Vote that was put together by Jan Abrams and the Design Institute at University of Minnesota. (BTW, also speaking was Michael Frumin, who developed Fundrace.) Dori and Design for Democracy had done a really intriguing study of the experience of voting in Chicago -- mostly looking at signage and other information requirements. Their designs for a new communication system are online. And if you ever get a chance to hear her talk about the research behind those design proposals, I think that's the best part of their project.

November 2, 2004 in Rules of Engagement | Permalink


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I like how if you forget that stupid little card the snail-mailed you months ago, you don't know which line to get into, until you wait an hour or so, and then find you're in the wrong line, thanks to the map on the wall at the *HEAD* of the line.


Put the damn map on the FRONT DOOR you morons.

Nobody but the ward-heelers know what district they're in this quadrannum (new word?) and you change the damn lines all the time anyway.

Posted by: Whatever | Jan 11, 2005 5:58:30 PM


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