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How can voting be more accessible, engaging?

Urban thinkers challenge the status quo

Millions of Americans are out casting their votes today, in an Election Day routine that hasn’t changed for a long time. Unless you’re mailing in a ballot, you’d go to the neighborhood polling place and get on a line that you feel is simultaneously too long and not long enough. Can this status quo be improved? This was the challenge given to multidisciplinary teams of architects, geographers, urban consultants, and more last weekend as they competed in a one-day flash competition at the Van Alan Institute in New York City.

The goal was to propose ways to create a more “equitable, accessible, engaging” voting process. And the winning ideas? How about Election Day becoming a national celebration of democracy, where voting happens on Sunday so families can get together and parks and public spaces host results parties. Oh, and digitized voting on mobile devices. One finalist proposal envisions distributing interactive artifacts on poll lines, using family histories help neighbors find common ground. Another calls for Election Day to straight-up be a national holiday.

There are concrete reasons some of these ideas aren’t in effect yet—the threat of cyber attacks to digital ballots is one—but as politicians know well enough, it’s never too early to start thinking about the next election.