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Crowdsourced Ratings Could Help Improve Lousy Polling Places

A Harvard professor calls on voters to expose substandard venues by rating them on his new website.
November 1, 2012

Every election year brings new stories of polling stations around the country failing to properly serve their respective communities. Rude or unhelpful staff, poor crowd management, and broken voting machines (see “The States with the Riskiest Voting Technology”) not only inconvenience voters—these issues also affect final tallies.

Archon Fung, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, thinks his new website, could help address these problems. By serving as a sort of “Yelp for democracy,” as he calls it, the site, MyFairElection.com, will give registered users the chance to rate their polling stations on Election day, using a scale of one to five stars. The collected data will be the basis of a color-coded map. “If tens of thousands of people participate,” says Fung, “we’ll be able to see what election conditions are like all over the United States in real time.”

Election Day will likely be too late to vastly improve problematic polling places, but if the site collects enough useful data it could help change things next time around. And, after the election, says Fung, the numbers will be used to “help election officials and civic organizations improve the voting process in the years going forward.”

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