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Creating a better voting experience with Yelp-like reviews

Posting in Government

In a few days, United States citizens will head to their local polling place to vote. But like any business chain, not all polling places are created equal. Voters may encounter faulty voting equipment or rude staff at some locations or breeze through the process at others.

A bad experience doesn't just have the potential for keeping citizens from voting in the next election, it could keep your vote from being counted. That's why Archon Fung, a professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, has created what he calls "Yelp for democracy." A website that allows voters to rate their polling place.

After you sign up at MyFairElection.com, go vote and then you will be able to let out your frustrations on your polling place (or compliment it) by giving it a 1-5 star rating.

It obviously won't do anything about bad polling places this time around. But the best part about this site is all the data that could potentially be collected and used to hold polling places accountable.

"If tens of thousands of people participate in MyFairElection, we'll be able to see what election conditions are like all over the United States in real time. It'll be a weather map with different colors reflecting the quality of the vote," Fung explains.

"After the election, data from MyFairElection.com will be used to help election officials and civic organizations improve the voting process in the years going forward," he said.

The challenge with MyFairElection, though, could be the same problem plaguing the voting process: voter apathy. It's hard enough to get people to go out and vote. Will people want to go out of their way to rate the experience, especially if there was nothing noteworthy about it? We could end up with an all-red map if people only use the service to vent their frustrations. Or will people just forgot about their experience and hope that the voting process is magically better next election?

Still, if enough people join, it will be interesting to see which parts of the country had the most problems and which had the best experiences. But the only way for that data to be available is to sign up. You can do that here.

[h/t Technology Review]

— By on November 1, 2012, 3:10 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure