Vote With Me
In 2014, less than 17% of eligible citizens under 30 voted. That's 145 million people. How can we do better?
Vote With Me imagines how a person-to-person voting campaign might engage young citizens in the 2016 presidential election. It's not a mobile application; it's a grassroots buddy system that lives within a web app and existing social platforms through plugins or embedded widgets.
The idea is to bring political conversations to young people in the places they already reside, to promote participation through established relationships, and to increase turnout through publicly declared commitments among friends.
SVA MFA Interaction Design
Role: Concept, research, UX and visual design
Users invite friends to pair up and vote together, making a public pledge on social platforms. Customizable badges encourage play and make the experience more personal, while joint text reminders provoke dialog and action. (It's harder to ignore a promise if you know your buddy saw your reminder!)
Candidate information and polling locations are also communicated through clear language and a friendly interface. It's not about who you vote for; it's about voting. Period.
I was compelled by news coverage of polling data and antiquated voting machines to focus a core component of my initial graduate work on voting technologies. However, the project quickly evolved to address deeper and potentially more immediate issues within political participation.
I was struck by 2014's record-low turnout among voters under 30 and narrowed the scope of my research to the youngest bracket of eligible citizens who have a high school education or greater and do not vote. Statistically, higher levels of education trend towards higher rates of voter participation. Though, education is less relevant among voters under 30, despite their reported investment in social issues - as revealed in a 2015 study published by DEMOS on disparities in American voting.
My quantitative and qualitative findings revealed three primary pain-points:
- Lacking faith in the political system
- A self-described sense of inadequate knowledge about an already confusing process
- Complicated and inefficient processes for registration and voting
Interestingly, 32 of the 34 non-voters under 30 I interviewed suggested they would vote if mobile options were available - despite previously cited reasons. However, there is a good deal of work being done by civic designers such as Dana Chisnell to improve the physical voting process with relevant technologies, and eventually better designs will overcome security fears and new voting technologies will be implemented.
Of course, there is great value in furthering research and design thinking to accelerate these changes, but with 2016 around the corner, I believe there is also great value in considering incremental solutions for the present.
An initial prototype explored how game mechanics could inform people about their ballots with daily "Would You Rather" questions, prompting the user to swipe left or swipe right accordingly. Over time, the application would populate a mock ballot for the user based on their answers to the daily questions. Though, it became quickly apparent that this model, fraught with would logistical as well as ethical issues, would really only appeal to those already invested in politics.
Features including a geo-location tool to help identify polling sites without requiring information entry, as well as a legible summary of polices and people on a users' specific ballot, would survive later iterations...
Back at the drawing board, I shared design frustrations with our instructor Roger Mader, a full-time strategy specialist and part-time cheerleader charged with advising IxD graduate students in project development. Roger noted that he had recently registered to vote as a result of our prolonged discussions on the topic.
This simple act highlighted the potential value in person-to-person dialogue and encouragement. It begged the question: what if all the young people who regularly vote convinced one non-voter to participate? It would increase voter turnout by more than 35 million. Which led to another question: how might we encourage young citizens to convince each other to vote though existing networks and relationships?