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Built to Poll: Missouri Design Firm Creates Opportunities for New Voters

By Peter Kray posted 10-21-2020 12:19


Voting season can be stressful for everyone. But in Kansas City, Hufft, a locally based fabrication and design firm, is helping create a fun, innovative way to welcome new voters to the political process by partnering with an online restaurant platform to support free Curbside Notary events at favorite local coffee shops and eateries across the state of Missouri.

Hufft co-founder Matthew Hufft said he became interested in the initiative after state legislatures passed a law to expand mail-in voting, but with a stipulation that all mail-in ballots must be notarized to count.

“Given the socio-economical impact of this requirement in an almost all inner city, lower income population, it really upset me,” Hufft said. “So, we set out to try and help. We were going to do it all on our own, but then came across Curbside, that had a better network and organizational infrastructure.” 

Curbside KC is a platform that was created to support local restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic, with up-to-date information on which restaurants were open, and who was offering online ordering and delivery. In four months, the database grew to over 1,200 restaurants.

Curbside founder Danielle Lehman initially planned to find five locations to host events with a dozen notary volunteers, but said, We did some media outreach early on, and ended up receiving inquiries from over 175 notary volunteers, and we were able to increase the number of events.”

When Hufft offered to fabricate booths for each event, Lehman said, “I knew it was a great opportunity to have even more visibility in the community, so I wanted to do whatever I could to scale up the project and get as many volunteers out into the wild as possible.”

The design of each booth reflects a typical sidewalk A-frame sign, and is affordable and practical.

Hufft said, “That iconic shape and construction technique is just amplified to a larger scale, in order to fit a notary inside – and symbolize the importance of voting!”

When it came down to deciding on the best products and materials for making booths that could be quickly produced and easily moved from one event to another, Hufft Fabrication Shop Director Scott Beattie said, “We decided on 3Ž4” Baltic Birch plywood to be used on all of the main components for its strength, appearance and cost. It can easily and accurately be programmed and milled on our CNC router. The screen mounted on the front is made of thin Lexan and attached through tabs with Velcro.”

The flat-packed structure is held together at the top by a heavy-duty piano hinge. Beattie said, “It is a tool-free assembly that starts on its back and held together by sliding the shelf component into a half-lapped joint. The A-frame is then tilted up and the Lexan screen slides into place with adjustable Velcro straps.”

 Now that the booths have been seen across the city, Lehman said she is, “hearing from voters who have received their ballots in the past week, and they all seem to be very grateful that we're popping up at places they already visit on a daily basis.”

“At some locations, we're even able to notarize voters' ballots at their car, so for a lot of people, it feels a lot safer and more convenient than visiting the polls. For notaries, so many people want to help with this election, but having random voters come to their offices or homes is not ideal during a pandemic. So for them, it's been a great convenience that they can meet with voters in an outdoor public space.”