David Dudley is the executive editor of CityLab. He is the former editor in chief of Urbanite magazine and a former features editor for AARP: The Magazine.
An Idaho election official is jumping on the wagon with a street-food-themed mobile polling scheme.
On a day when one GOP supporter warned darkly of an impending taco-truck invasion should Donald Trump be defeated, another embraced a more positive vision of the vehicular street-food community: Ada County, Idaho, will be rolling out mobile polling places this fall in order to boost turnout and make it easier for residents to cast their ballots. Calling this a “real game-changer,” Boise Weekly discussed the idea with Phil McGrane, the chief deputy clerk for Ada County. "We're going to be 'food truck voting,’” McGrane told the alt-weekly. “Picture a food truck, and that's a pretty good idea of what you'll experience at our new mobile voting unit."
McGrane, who sought the Republican nomination for Idaho secretary of state in 2014, seems to be actively involved with planning the food-truck-inspired polling facility. Here he is describing how it works:
"It's our own design: a trailer with pop-up windows and awnings. Four election workers will be inside the mobile unit. You'll go up to the window, get your customized ballot printed out, vote and have your ballot scanned right there."
His hope is to get the vehicles parked outside major employment centers around the county, which includes state capital Boise, to catch early voters in the weeks leading up to Election Day.
As with actual food trucks, it’s hard not to imagine such a thing and think: This is a great idea. So why aren’t there more roving polling units around? A patent on a similar idea dates back to 1983, and a handful of jurisdictions around the country have experimented with vote-mobiles. But Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, founder and CEO of the U.S. Vote Foundation, says that as with other advancements in voting technology (cough, the internet), security questions have likely kept the democracy-truck idea parked. Polling administrators must carefully safeguard the chain of custody for all ballots, ensuring they don’t get dumped or stolen by anyone who handles them. A mobile unit could compromise that security, since the votes are moving around more. Then there’s the matter of local governments having the cash to experiment with the structure of election. “I think trucks are a good idea, but it has to be studied, the risks have to be mitigated, and that requires investment,” says Dzieduszycka-Suinat. “Unfortunately, states and counties are just starved of resources.”
Ah, but what if those costs could be defrayed by combining the voting with some addition source of revenue—say, a delicious and affordable taco vending operation?