‘Two Pieces of Plywood’ short film shares story of Hufft + Curbside Notary collaboration, wins 3rd place in AIA Film Challenge
Can great design be as simple as two pieces of plywood? And can something that simple inspired change?
The film shares the story of our collaboration with Curbside Notary, a grassroots campaign organized by Danielle Lehman to make mail-in voting more accessible for Kansas City voters. In the months leading up to the 2020 presidential election, laws and suppression tactics encumbering the voting process were garnered the general public’s attention. In Missouri specifically, election laws require every mail-in ballot (as well as some absentee) be notarized. Danielle wondered how the requirement would impact voters wanting to vote by mail in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In my experience, finding a notary is not any safer than just showing up at the polls,” Danielle said. “The challenge specifically was gaining access to a notary in a safe way. I just wanted to make it easier, safer and more accessible for people to get their ballots notarized.”
At the same time Lehman was organizing Curbside Notary, leaders at Hufft wondered how they could help local voters navigate restrictions. Matthew Hufft recalls a radio interview that sparked his own curiosity.
“One morning, a few months before the election, I was listening to NPR, and they were interviewing a politician about the requirement of notarizing ballots,” Matthew shared. “The reporter really questioned the need for such requirements during the pandemic. The politician simply could not answer and, given the socio-economic impact of this requirement is almost all inner-city, lower-income, it really upset me.”
This interview sparked an idea – Hufft could fabricate booths that would be donated to notaries willing to set up at various location across the city. “We were going to do it all on our own,” Matthew said, “but learned of Danielle’s efforts through her Curbside KC platform. She had a better network and was a great partner.”
“When Hufft reached out and offered to fabricate these booths, I knew it was a great opportunity to have even more visibility in the community,” Danielle shared. “I wanted to do whatever I could to scale up the project and get as many volunteers as possible.”
Hufft’s fabrication team quickly got to work. After a short design and mockup process, multiple booths were created and delivered to locations across the city.
“The booth design reflected a typical sidewalk A-frame sign that you see everywhere,” explained Matthew. “It was very practical. That iconic shape and construction technique was just amplified to a larger scale to fit a volunteer notary inside.”
In the end, the Curbside Notary campaign brought together more than 100 notaries who volunteered their time at 60+ free notary events across Kansas City. Together, they notarized more than 1,000 ballots and were also able to provide voters with information regarding their voter registration and poll locations.
Our goal for this film was to share how two pieces of plywood became a vessel for community conversation and action. We are deeply grateful to the AIA and jury panel for this honor, and for our collaborators and community in helping us share this story.