WASHINGTON (May 14, 2014) - Voting is an important activity for citizens in any democracy, but when elections are not accessible for people with disabilities, as many as 20 percent of potential U.S. voters-47 million individuals-face barriers to voting. Advances in technology have created new opportunities for innovation in elections but numerous obstacles still remain. In addition, many of the voting systems adopted after the Help America Vote Act are coming to the end of their useful lifecycles and will soon need to be replaced, creating additional opportunities to invest in innovative, accessible voting technology.
Innovation for Accessible Elections, a report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), assesses opportunities to increase voting access through enhanced use of technology and improved education and training. It also presents a series of innovations developed through the ITIF Accessible Voting Technology Initiative, a project funded by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission which brought together a wide range of academic research institutions and advocacy organizations from across the country.
"Our research shows that elections are still not accessible for millions of voters with disabilities," says Daniel Castro, director of the ITIF Accessible Voting Technology Initiative and co-author of the report. "Through this effort we hope to highlight technologies and best practices that can help ensure that all citizens, with or without a disability, can vote privately, securely, and independently."
The study identified multiple barriers to voting for people with disabilities, including limited access to election information, insufficient poll worker training, limited physical access to polling locations and voting systems that were not properly set up for people with disabilities. It also identified and tested technologies, design processes and training initiatives that could be used to improve voting for all citizens.
For example, ITIF partnered with OpenIDEO, an online platform for collaborative design, and Los Angeles County to sponsor an open, online innovation challenge around the question "how might we design an accessible election experience for everyone?" Los Angeles County, the largest jurisdiction in the country, is currently incorporating ideas from this project as it designs and develops a new voting system.
"While most elections are more accessible today than in years past, more progress is needed," adds Castro. "State and local election officials should be encouraged to adopt best practices, such as online voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting, to better meet the needs of voters. In addition, they should take a close look at how new technology can improve access to the polls. Only through a process of continual improvement can we achieve the ultimate goal of universal accessibility."
Read the report.
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank whose mission is to formulate and promote public policies to advance technological innovation and productivity internationally, in Washington, and in the states. Recognizing the vital role of technology in ensuring prosperity, ITIF focuses on innovation, productivity, and digital economy issues. Learn more at www.itif.org.