Two projects will help increase voter engagement through technology with $3 million from Knight Foundation

Press Release

March 16, 2017

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Support will help Democracy Works and Center for Technology and Civic Life establish new tools and strategies for civic engagement

MIAMI—March 16, 2017—The John S. and James L. Knight foundation today announced renewed support to two separate nonprofit organizations—Democracy Works and the Center for Technology and Civic Life—to help increase voter participation in elections and break down barriers to civic engagement through technology.

As local governments and municipal officials struggle to engage voters across the country, the support will help provide access to better information about elections, provide training for local officials and establish a technology cooperative of election administrators.

“The lack of accurate and timely information about elections reduces voter participation and prevents people from fully taking part in civic life,” said John S. Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for technology innovation. “The organizations have seen tremendous progress in helping to address this challenge, leveraging the power of technology to provide quality information in accessible ways and help build a stronger democracy.”

The two projects funded separately are:

Democracy Works | $2.5 million | Twitter: @demworksinc: Democracy Works, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that uses technology to advance civic engagement, will work with companies, universities and election administrators to improve access to information about elections and increase voter participation.

New Knight support will help Democracy Works with:

  • College outreach: Democracy Works will undertake a nationwide expansion of a pilot it conducted with Harvard University in which 1,400 students were given the option to register to vote or request absentee ballots as they completed online class registration.
  • Corporate engagement: Democracy Works will expand its partnership with additional companies to spread the use of tools, including TurboVote, an application that helps voters maintain registration and keep track of elections, to more people.
  • Collaboration with elections administrators: Democracy Works will expand its work with election officials by launching the Election Technology Cooperative, made up of administrators from across the country. The cooperative will collaborate across local and state jurisdictions, leveraging the resources and expertise of many offices. Democracy Works will, in turn, help build products that serve administrators’ needs.

“Modernizing elections through technology is absolutely essential to solving America's voter participation crisis,” said Seth Flaxman, Democracy Works executive director and co-founder. “Through this new support, we are better able to advance this goal. It strengthens our ability to listen to voters and elections officials and build the tech they actually want and need.”

Knight Foundation has made four previous grants to Democracy Works since 2012 totaling more than $2.2 million.

Center for Technology and Civic Life | $508,000 | Twitter: @HelloCTCL: The Center for Technology and Civic Life, which ran the largest nonprofit voting information program in the country in 2016, will train municipal officials to use digital tools for community outreach and elections planning.

People are increasingly looking online for answers to questions about voting and governance. Too often this information is unavailable or confusing, contributing to devastatingly low levels of civic participation,” said Tiana Epps-Johnson, founder and executive director of the Center for Technology and Civic Life. “This renewed support from Knight Foundation will allow us to double down on our work to provide local governments with the tech-focused tools and training they need to better inform and engage today’s communities.”

Renewed support to the Center for Technology and Civic Life will expand the information available in its Election Toolkit, a winner of the Knight News Challenge on Elections. The toolkit helps local governments more easily engage with communities by providing resources for elections offices, including website templates, icons and illustrations that provide visual guides for information-seekers, wait-time calculators, and other tools. The nonprofit also previously developed an online learning toolbox for local election administrators which received funding through the Knight Prototype Fund.

Support for Democracy Works and the Center for Technology and Civic Life forms part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to leverage new digital tools to improve the ways in which Americans relate to their government and one another. Knight has made several investments in this area, including its support of the Knight News Challenge on Elections, which offered a share of more than $3 million for ideas to better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections.

About Democracy Works Inc.

Democracy Works is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the idea that voting should fit the way we live. They are a team of software developers, public policy wonks, and civic organizers working together to build the tools a modern democracy needs. Their first offering, launched in 2010, was TurboVote, an online tool that eliminates the most common barriers to voting. Their most recent tool, Ballot Scout, is designed to assist local election officials by integrating technology to better serve voters. For more information, visit democracy.works.

About Center for Technology and Civic Life

CTCL is a nonprofit that uses technology to improve the way local governments and communities interact. We do this by providing free and low-cost resources for local election officials so they can update the ways they use technology to communicate with the public. We also do this by publishing free, open-source civic data sets that are used in some of the most powerful tools that drive civic participation. For more information, visit techandciviclife.org.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

CONTACTS: 

Brandon Naylor, Director of Communications, Democracy Works, 347-766-9037, [email protected] 

Tiana Epps-Johnson, Executive Director, Center for Technology and Civic Life, 650-796-4695, [email protected]

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2646, [email protected]