The last time I voted in LA, I used a fat marker to place a black splotch on a Scantron-like form inserted between the pages of a plastic booklet. The form never lined up exactly, and the design of the booklet was so confusing, I’m pretty sure I voted for the wrong person. Now (thankfully) LA is overhauling its voting, and might have the new system ready by the 2018 election.

Like many cities, LA has a fleet of outdated, antiquated voting machines like the InkaVote Plus one I voted at last spring. These use technologies that are decades-old and can end up disenfranchising voters based on their poor user experience. Add to that the challenge of a big city like LA which must print ballots in 11 languages, meaning there might not be a volunteer who speaks your language on-hand at the polling place to help you if and when you get confused.

According to a story in Businessweek, Los Angeles County tapped design firm IDEO to redesign the voting experience, from the ballot design to the booths where the votes are cast. Touchscreens with interfaces that feel more like the tablets we’re used to using every day replace the awful plastic booklets, and you receive a voting receipt that clearly shows for whom you voted. No ambiguity. Or markers.

Perhaps the best part of IDEO’s plan is that the technology also includes a sample ballot that’s designed exactly like the actual ballot, which voters can download on an app or website to fill in at home. When you arrive at the polling place, you simply scan your sample ballot using a QR code and it pulls up not only the correct ballot for your geographical location but all of your choices that you’ve pre-selected. You just need to approve the choices you’d already made and submit your ballot. This removes almost all of the confusion around the voting process and allows people to take their time with the issues (which is why a lot of people vote by mail).

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You can see more concepts that voters thought would make their experience better over at IDEO’s crowdsourcing site. With a system like this in place, it will make implementing mandatory voting that much easier.

[Businessweek]