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OpenGov Voices: How TurboVote is Shaping the Future of Voting

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee Kathryn Petersthereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.

Kathryn Peters is the co-founder of TurboVote -- a nonpartisan nonprofit based in New York, which makes the voting process easier through a sign up system that helps users track rules and deadlines about voting -- to ensure that all citizens are included in the democratic process. You can reach her at @kathrynepeters.

Voting is one of the most fundamental interactions between citizens and our government. And it's a system whose 19th-century pedigree is showing badly. If for previous generations, gathering on Tuesday at central locations offered convenience and community, our busy schedules and long commutes have made getting to the polls one more obstacle to democratic participation.

In 2010, my friend Seth Flaxman and I set out to create an electoral system that would fit the way WE live: TurboVote, a new user interface for voting, as it were, complete with push notifications about election deadlines and a Netflix-worthy delivery system for all that paperwork, so we didn't have to buy envelopes or track down stamps just to stay engaged.

TurboVote LogoSunlight offered us a seed grant to run a pilot at Boston University, which helped us catch the attention of Google, earn funding from the Knight Foundation, and build partnerships at schools from the University of Florida to Hobart and William Smith Colleges, until by the end of 2012, we'd reached nearly 200,000 voters. Going forward, we want to offer every voter an easier, streamlined voting experience. In order to do this, we'll need to work directly with the 8,000+ local election administrators who handle the voting process across the U.S. So we set out to learn more about our new favorite people. Service designers from Reboot shadowed elections offices from Brattleboro, VT, to Austin, TX, with stops in Denver, CO, Columbia, MO, Louisville, KY and Stuart, FL along the way. The research team got to know the people behind the scenes of American democracy, their processes and technologies, and got hands-on with e-poll books and barcode scanners as we learned the tools of the trade.

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