“We have got to fix that.”
On Election Night in 2012, six words by newly re-elected President Obama set a chain of events in motion.
He was talking about the long lines at many polling places.
A little over a year later the Presidential Commission for Election Administration (PCEA) presented their recommendations to help local and state elections officials improve all voters’ experience in casting their ballots.
There were many amazing things about the PCEA.
That it existed at all. Most of the time, the roughly 8,000 election administrators around the country do their jobs with little fanfare and little public attention. It was pretty exciting to see so many people working on fixing problems and offering best practices to support these officials as they support the voter.
That it was bipartisan. In fact the chairs had been general counsel to opposing candidates in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.
But most of all, that their recommendations — a set of practical, useful guidelines addressing real issues — have made a real and measurable difference, upping the game of election officials around the country.
Isn’t this old news? Why are we talking about this now?
Because, suddenly, on January 28, 2017, supportthevoter.gov simply disappeared.
All of the resources they had collected, and video of the public meetings, the tools used by election administrators around the country, the research and written testimony on topics from ballot design to voter registration were simply wiped away.
In their place, a blank page at GSA.gov. Up in the corner of the page, a sad Skip to Content link sits with nowhere to send you.
We know that it’s common to do a little cleanup when a new administration takes over. But it does seem like an odd coincidence that just as people in the White House are calling for a large scale investigation of voter fraud, a body of knowledge that could be critical to this effort was removed.
Did we mention that it was bipartisan. That there was input from every state and many different voices heard at the hearings around the country. That the community of people who want to see elections with high integrity have been working the the officials in charge of running those elections to implement the recommendations of this very commission?
The recommendations are not controversial. They are not radical. They speak to the real problems that many of us have grappled with for years, and offer common-sense recommendations for:
If this sounds a bit personal, it’s because it is. This all took place just as we founded the Center for Civic Design. We followed them, worked with them, and testified at hearings.
Looking across the voter experience — Dana Chisnell’s testimony to the PCEA
Accessibility as a drive for innovation — Whitney Quesenbery’s testimony to the PCEA
Voting anywhere, any time on any device — Drew Davies’ testimony to the PCEA
Our work on the Anywhere Ballot, the voter experience and how voters use local election websites to find information, innovation and accessibility, and — of course — the Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent all contributed to the recommendations.
If you’d like to know more, you can, thank to the MIT Election Data and Science Lab and the Internet Archive have preserved the Support The Voter site on new servers. Because of them, you can start by reading the amazing work of this commission in their final report and recommendations.
If you want to be part of democracy in action, there’s lots you can do, whether you have a little time or a lot of time to give.
Most of all, show up. And take action to make a difference.
This article was originally published on medium.com/civicdesigning