In today’s day and age, we are facing many issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many stores, restaurants, and boutiques have closed down due to health guidelines. Many individuals fear going out due to the possibility of contracting this deadly virus. The pandemic has hit the country at a difficult time as it is an election year. Due to this rising fear, many individuals may not take part in their civic duties to vote. This could lead to biased voting results and a decline in voter turnout. Although there are alternative solutions, such as mail-in-ballot, many individuals do not want or are unable to understand such a process.
Our solution to this topical issue is a web app called “Safe4U2Vote”. The application is aimed at providing users with safe polling locations that they can attend in person. The application measures “safe” in terms of COVID-19 cases in the nearby location and the population density of the specified location. The factors we utilize to calculate our “COVID index” are updated COVID-19 data per county, the user’s current location, and the population density in that region.
Our product utilizes a minimalistic user interface and powerful backend to calculate the relative safety of a given polling location, and to deliver said information in a simple, user-friendly format. The landing page has only a title and a search bar. In the search bar the user can enter his or her current location. After querying the location, the user will be redirected to the results page. The results page will populate the top polling locations for the user based on how far the location is and how low the COVID-19 index metric is for the specific locations. The results page will have a search bar at the top of the page if the user would like to search from another location. The user may also filter results based solely on location or solely on COVID index (listing location from closest to furthest, or safest to least safe respectfully). An added level of functionally is that the product will work even between active elections - using estimates of where polling locations may be located for future elections and the google maps API, to simulate the functionality that would be seen in an active election.
The project was implemented using react.js framework for the front-end and node.js for the back-end. Additionally, we used express as a middleware tool to help us with redirection for the API calls and the connection between the front-end and the back-end. We used three API’s within this web application. The first tool is the Google Civic Information API (used google maps in the case that a current election is not in progress), which informs us about polling locations around the country. The second API is Knowi’s COVID-19 data API, which provides insights on COVID-19 cases around the country, state, county, and city. The last API we are implementing is the world population API. This API will allow us to calculate the COVID-19 index based on the population density and COVID-19 cases. The backend of our application combined data from the three API’s to suggest relevant polling locations based on location and COVID prevalence in a given area, by combining the data depicting number of COVID cases in a given area with the popu;lation density of an area and scaling that data to a number between 1 and 5 for our COVID index. Developing this application allows users to find the closest locations that are the safest for them to go to in order to vote. This could help increase voter turnout, which would simultaneously increase civic participation. This application would be beneficial to many individuals, including family, friends, neighbors, politicians, and citizens across the country. The application would provide a strong analysis on which areas are the safest to attend based on the metrics setup. This would inadvertently help keep the community safe by informing members of society the safest locations to vote. By creating a safe climate for all voters, we are ensuring every member of the community is safe as well. We believe this app may be especially helpful for new voters of a younger demographic who are more accustomed to using internet tools than mailing things physically. This may give them a safe alternative to mail-in voting, which they may deem too difficult to participate in.
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