By Alexandra Raphel
Just in time for the Nov. 6 election, the Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation announced the launch of MyFairElection.com, a crowd-sourced effort to make voting in U.S. elections more fair and efficient for citizens.
The Web site and smart phone app will allow people to anonymously provide feedback about the quality of their voting experiences, including information about wait times, machine malfunctions and the demeanor of those running the polling stations.
The Web site, originally set up in 2008, was the brainchild of HKS Professor Archon Fung, who teaches classes on social change and strategic public problem solving. Fung also researches civic participation and government transparency, among other topics. He refers to MyFairElection.com as “the Yelp of democracy,” giving people the chance to improve election experiences by rating their own.
Fung’s close collaborator is P.h.D. candidate and Ash Center Fellow Hollie Russon Gilman. At a dinner last spring, she learned about the MyFairElection.com and was eager to get involved.
“A resource like this is more important than ever,” Gilman says. Given the heated debate over potential voter fraud and voter protection this presidential election cycle, being able to pinpoint the troubled polling stations will be a great advantage.
Gilman describes the platform as having three key functions. First, it allows people to deepen their civil involvement in a creative way. Once registered, people are free to say whatever they choose about the experience and even post pictures of polling places, when local law permits it.
MyFairElection.com also allows for greater accountability and transparency in the elections process, holding the government responsible for polling place issues that lessen the efficiency of the system or worse, disenfranchise citizens.
Finally, after Election Day data has been collected, it will be made public so that policymakers, journalists and election officials can use the information to make necessary improvements. Gilman believes MyFairElection.com presents a great opportunity for much-needed “non-partisan civic data analysis.”
Fung and Gilman worked diligently to get the platform up and running in time without a budget. This included asking web developers, including LegiNation Inc., to volunteer their time, and seeking out pro-bono legal services from the law clinic at Harvard. In addition, they made use of Ash Center resources, such as the expertise of communications expert Kate Hoagland who filmed a YouTube promotional video, and Fung published op-ed for the Huffington Post.
Gilman believes all the hard work will be worth it and she is hopeful they will get a strong online turnout next week. “This could be a great opportunity, but only if people use it.”