In the world of government, innovations can have long-standing, drastic impacts on residents. As innovators, it is important to develop a deeper understanding on who is being effected and whether or not the changes you propose are truly equitable. Shelby Miller is an example of an innovator that saw recent changes in legislation as an opportunity to do everything she could to provide Denver residents with disabilities the best voting experience possible.

The Innovation

Establishing a System of Work to Better Serve Voters with Disabilities

“Voters with disabilities frequently face tremendous hurdles when attempting to participate in the democratic process. Locating and arriving at a voter services and polling center (VSPC) or reading, marking and signing a mail ballot are just a few of the barriers that have led to disproportionally low turnout among voters with disabilities.

Colorado recently passed legislation that allows voters with disabilities to access their ballot electronically through an ADA-compliant platform. As the Denver Elections Division created processes to adhere to the new statute, it was pertinent that procedural implementation and data management results in a simplified, coherent system of work as well as a streamlined customer experience.

I was able to implement a system that allows eligible voters to register for and access the electronic ballot in such a way that provides an autonomous voting experience. In doing so, our office was able to cultivate relationships with various organizations that serve this wide demographic.”

The Action Plan

  • After drafting a proposed system of work document, Shelby gathered the voice of the customer by consulting with organizations within the ADA community such as the National Federation of the Blind to ensure that the new process would provide a quality experience for those impacted.
  • She then researched ADA guidelines and best practices to ensure that the ballot email sent to voters with disabilities is 100% compliant.
  • The new email was then tested with Jobs Access With Speech (JAWS) and other accessibility tools to ensure that there are no errors.
  • She then coordinated with the Communications department to inform ADA voters of the new change and better track who requested ADA access.

The Outcome

Because of this innovation, voters are better able to access their ballots electronically from their own home, with their own accessibility tools. This ensures that they have a private and independent voting experience.

The innovation helped her gain new perspective into the lives of others and also helped instill an office culture of curiosity, respect and continuous learning of the challenges facing voters with disabilities and potential solutions.

The innovation also revealed that there’s an opportunity to increase awareness among voters by better communicating with people with disabilities.

Her team’s efforts to gather the voice of the customer and their emphasis on inclusiveness even earned them a special commendation from the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado.

Bright Spot Q&A: Shelby Miller (Cohort 89)

Tell us a little about yourself; what should the world know about you?

“I got my start in elections during the 2016 Presidential Primary while working for Salt Lake County. Prior to this, you could find me wandering from place to place, always on the lookout for the next adventure. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, educated in Salt Lake City, taught English in Spain and am now seeking roots in our beautiful Colorado. It wasn’t until I joined the Denver Elections team that I felt I had found a role that truly resonated with me.”

What about your innovations are you most proud of?

“My primary goal is to ensure an accessible, efficient and secure method of voting for all eligible citizens. While Denver already boasts an award-winning vote-by-mail model and early voting system, we noticed that there were still some outlying demographics that face particular hurdles when getting to the ballot box. It is our collective mantra that there is always room for improvement.

By implementing an online, accessible solution for those in the disability community, these voters can finally participate in the democratic process in a manner that is completely private and independent. To know that my innovation made voting easier for just one person would be a win in my book.”

What innovations do you have in mind for the future?

“Little innovations everywhere! You might have heard that 2020 is an election year. My main goal at this point is to continue to meet our high expectations of customer service and basic survival. However, I’ve already noticed that the mindset toward progress that is taught in PEAK allows small tweaks to have huge outcomes.

For example: I recently developed a (deeply color-coded) organizational system of incoming electronic forms and balloting materials. By simply assigning these materials to a corresponding color or sub-folder, my team is able to handle the high volume of emails and respond quickly and accordingly.”

What advice do you have for other innovators or people seeking to innovate in the future?

“Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. I promise, the juice is worth the squeeze! Worst case scenario, you will have learned something in the process.”

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