Election Day Backstage

Today is the presidential election here in the US. There are over 500 polling places in the city of San Francisco, and I took some time this afternoon to visit a few of them to see how the election works from a service design perspective.

For the most part, election day has all the grandeur of a junior high school bake sale. Many of the polling places are in garages, church basements, libraries; a few in store fronts and civic buildings. Such sad little affairs, particularly when you compare them to any commercial servicescape.

What they have going for them is a consistency of touchpoints and procedures. One of the poll workers at the First Baptist Church showed me a copy of the San Francisco Pollworker Training Manual [PDF 2.5MB]. I was impressed. It’s an incredibly detailed overview of precisely how to stage an election here in San Francisco. How to set up machines, how to hang signage, how to secure the ballots and hand them off to deputies. It’s all here, complete with step-by-step photos. Very nice.

Turns out it’s pretty easy to dig up these manuals online. Just search for “poll worker training manual,” along with your city or state, to see how elections work where you live.

  1. Glad you pointed this out. I found it interesting that I was voting for the most powerful position in the world while sitting on a couch with a blanket thrown over it, filling out my ballot on a battered coffee table in someone’s garage. Despite the location, all the elements to cast my ballot were there.

    What can Starbucks learn from this?

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