The brainchild of Archon Fung, a professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, the Web site will also aid ABC News in its election coverage.
Fung said that he and his colleagues had been interested in user-generated information that is shared on Web sites like Wikipedia and TripAdvisor. He said he found that problems at voting sites could be fixed by allowing the average citizen to provide information, which could then be used by others like media agencies and other voters.
“We can create a better improved election administration at a state level or with federal regulations and more federal effort,” Fung said. “We ought to try those things, but another strategy would be grassroots, bottom-up, citizen-based monitoring.”
After voting, one can register to review the experience on the Web site.
Users can indicate negative characteristics like “long lines,” “poll place hard to find,” and “they ran out of ballots.” There is also room to review the positive aspects of the experience, such as “poll workers were courteous and friendly.”
Finally, users are asked to rate the overall experience from one to five stars and to make any extra comments. The information is then displayed on a color-coded Google map of the United States.
“The thing that makes this project different is that it asks people to rate the experience to develop a spectrum from good to bad,” Fung said. “Other [Web sites] are just focusing on the bad, not the comparison. The map helps make comparisons.”
Fung said that he and ABC News will use the data submitted by voters for his own analysis.
Elizabeth H. Tribolet ’83, a senior producer at ABC News, and Reynolds W. Holding ’77, an editorial producer, are covering voting irregularities for the network. They plan to incorporate the data from Fung’s Web site into their coverage.
“In theory, [MyFairElection.com] will let us learn about problems that are in the country that we wouldn’t learn about,” Tribolet said. “We have hundreds of sources that we check in on, but when you have the voters coming to you it creates a whole new opportunity.”
Tribolet said that ABC News will take the raw data from the site as a news tip and will then investigate further in order to confirm the information before it is reported.
Currently, the Web site’s main map tracks how many people have registered and another map that displays the data already collected.
At press time, 526 voters had signed up, and 77 voters have rated their experiences, mostly about voting absentee or vote-by-mail. The majority of the ratings have been positive, though one voter in New York and another in Pennsylvania reported that their voting experiences have been less than satisfactory.
“My hope is that on Election Day we are going to help at least one polling place to function,” said Russell G. Richardson, the software engineer who volunteered to develop MyFairElection.com.
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