NIST and CTCL Hosting Webinars on Voting System Requirements for Accessibility and Usability

Work on the next version of the federal Voluntary Voting System Guidelines, VVSG 2.0, is almost complete.

In two free webinars on September 25, you’ll hear how the new and updated requirements for usability and accessibility address issues that voters still encounter with accessible voting, cover technologies now in common use, and catch up to current best practices in voting systems.

The Human Factors Public Working Group -- led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) -- has worked for several years on new and updated guidance. This guidance will help the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) develop final requirements for accessibility and usability in VVSG 2.0

The webinars will feature Sharon Laskowski, NIST Voting Program and Deputy Division Chief of the NIST Information Access Division/Information Technology Lab, and Whitney Quesenbery, Co-director of the Center for Civic Design.

Sharon Laskowski and Whitney Quesenbery

Sharon Laskowski and Whitney Quesenbery

Webinar 1: Introducing the Human Factors Requirements

Wednesday, September 25, 1:00 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. Eastern

  • Goals for the new requirements and how they’ll help make voting more accessible

  • Structure and organization of the requirements under the VVSG 2.0 principles and guidelines

  • Process used to develop the draft requirements

  • How usability testing and user-centered design are incorporated in the requirements

Webinar 2: Updates to Best Practices and New Technologies for Voting Systems

Wednesday, September 25, 3:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. Eastern

  • How federal accessibility laws and regulations are incorporated

  • Changes in ballot text size and contrast

  • Gestures and scrolling to include new technology in a voting system in an appropriate way

  • Features to support voters in making selections and carefully reviewing their ballots

Registration is free and all are welcome.

CTCL Launches Self-Paced Online Cybersecurity Training for Election Officials

Cybersecurity continues to be a high priority for every U.S. election office in 2019. That’s why we’re excited to announce that the acclaimed cybersecurity training that we created in partnership with the Center for Democracy and Technology is now completely available online. This means any election official can take the courses at their own pace and on their own time. 

CTCL’s self-paced online cybersecurity training series for election officials includes 3 courses priced at $50 each. The self-paced courses combine expert video instruction, interactive assessments, exercises, and Q&A discussions to create a learning environment that’s informative and engaging.

All courses include short videos and interactive assessments. Election officials can join on a desktop computer, tablet, or smartphone.

All courses include short videos and interactive assessments. Election officials can join on a desktop computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Start training today and join the leading network of election officials who are using technology to make elections more professional, secure, and inclusive. Learn more and register at

CTCL Hosting a Webinar on Automatic Voter Registration at Motor Vehicle Agencies

The National Voter Registration Act, also known as “Motor Voter,” requires states to offer voter registration at their motor vehicle agencies. When a state modernizes its voter registration process, changes must be implemented by election offices and by motor vehicle administrators. As more states pass Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) laws, motor vehicle agency administrators need to understand what that means for their work.

The webinar will feature Sandy Jack, Director of Data Management Services with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, and Stephanie Sams, Policy and Legislative Analyst with the Washington Department of Licensing. The discussion will overview the AVR implementation process, its potential pitfalls, and how it can reduce costs and transaction times for motor vehicle agencies.

Key topics of the webinar

  • Why motor vehicle agency administrators should pay attention to AVR implementation 

  • What to expect immediately after bill passage 

  • Potential pitfalls and how to avoid them

  • Benefits in cost & time savings with a successful implementation process

Curious about the previous webinars on modernizing voter registration? Check out the collection of webinar recordings on Vimeo. 

CTCL Hosting a Webinar on How to Create an Effective Election RFP

For election officials, writing a request for proposal (RFP) is an important step toward improving how elections are run. A successful RFP will help you purchase new voting equipment, internal management systems, and other materials that can reshape your office’s work and influence the voter experience.

Led by Kammi Foote, County Clerk/Recorder and Registrar of Voters for Inyo County, California and Tabitha Lehman, Election Commissioner for Sedgwick County, Kansas, this webinar gives an overview of best practices for creating an election RFP.

Kammi Foote and Tabitha Lehman

Kammi Foote and Tabitha Lehman

Plus, we introduce the new RFP How-to Guide for Election Officials.

Key topics of the webinar:

  • RFP basics: how they work, what’s needed to create one

  • Common ingredients of an election RFP

  • Distributing your RFP and reviewing bids

  • Using the new RFP How-to Guide for Election Officials

CTCL Hosting a Webinar on Securing Automatic Voter Registration Data

Modernizing the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and implementing state Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) laws focuses on the secure and efficient transfer of data from one government agency to another. And the innovation of moving government data electronically rather than by paper presents both new opportunities and new risks.

Led by Noah Praetz, election cybersecurity consultant and former Election Director of Cook County, IL along with Maurice Turner, Senior Technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, this webinar will overview election security threats, how to protect voter registration data, and how to design a security system during AVR implementation that mitigates vulnerabilities.

Key topics of the webinar include:

  • Threats to voter data & where vulnerabilities occur

  • Best security practices when designing a data transfer system

  • Making your plan to upgrade technology

Curious about the previous webinars on modernizing voter registration? Check out the collection of webinar recordings on Vimeo.

Elections 101: Intro to Party Planning

As the newest member of the CTCL team, I’m writing to introduce myself and share a bit of what’s been on my mind in my first few snowy months on the job. Alongside my teammates, I’m looking forward to working with the exceptional election officials in the CTCL network to build tools and trainings that support inclusive and secure elections. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can ever be of service, either via email or over on Twitter (@HiThereItsJosh).

Winter in Chicago is a time for getting people together to do something--anything--to make our frigid, windswept lives slightly more comfortable. As the snow thaws here, I think back to two gatherings in particular. I hosted a small party at my apartment over the weekend before serving as a poll worker on Chicago’s municipal Election Day. And these days, despite seeming so different at first blush, these two events are starting to seem more and more alike.

That’s because winter can also be a time for starting new jobs.

Headshot of Josh Simon Goldman smiling in a blue shirt.

Prior to joining the Government Services team at CTCL, I would never have thought of house parties and elections as similar. Now, three months in, I want to shout it from the (still snowy!) rooftops: “party planning” is a great analogy for describing the broad scope, logistical complexity, and resource intensity of elections work.

Let’s start with scope. Unless you’re a professional planner, hosting even a small, informal party can leave you exhausted by the end of the night. Between activities like purchasing supplies, setting up my apartment, and actually enjoying my guests’ company for a few hours, I was wiped out by the end of mine. The dirty dishes were left in the sink for morning.

Yet, a few days later, Chicago officials hosted voting at around 2,000 separate polling locations -- all day long. (A typical national election includes over 115,000 different spots, and, like in Chicago, polls are typically open for at least twelve hours!) Throw in early voting centers, open for weeks prior to the election, and the biggest parties pale in comparison to the marathon celebration that is any Election Day and its runup.

To no one’s surprise, elections are also more logistically complicated than getting together with a few choice friends. Otherwise, voting wouldn’t be as inclusive and secure as it is. Consider that voting is conducted:

No one cares if the oodles of tortilla chips have been locked in a secure room in the weeks leading up to a party. Ditto for what language describes them as “the best snack for parties!” on the packaging. Ballots, on the other hand, require a chain of custody and must be offered in a range of languages, depending on where you are in the country. There’s just some extra details to consider when the values of democracy are at stake.

As for resource intensity, though financial pressures may be easing slightly, the challenges facing election officials are well documented. And while I may have been able to squeeze by on a shoestring budget, election officials often struggle with limited dollars and outdated technology. Imagine managing a guest list of, say, half a million people with technology likely acquired in the era of hanging chads.

If my friends forget my address, or what to bring, they can check out the Facebook invite. Election officials, on the other hand, are slammed with pre-Election Day phone calls -- lots and lots of calls -- because structural challenges make it hard for election officials to publish that info in accessible ways. (Third party groups like CTCL’s own Ballot Information Project are easing the challenge through partnerships with companies like Google and Facebook.) And of course, hosting doesn’t stop once your guests find your house. Local public servants have also had to get creative when it comes to hiring masses of temporary poll workers, who have been shown to play a critical role in the voter experience.

Perhaps I should amend what I first said. While parties and elections are similar, they’re not nearly the same. Elections have always been much harder.

But they are also more rewarding. In Chicago for instance, hundreds of thousands of people showed up in the snow to decide together who should set policies that directly impact our lives. I am grateful they were hosted by determined party planners committed to this central celebration of our shared civic life. They made it happen, as they pretty much always do around the country. There were even party favors.

Josh is a Senior Associate on the Center for Technology and Civic Life’s Government Services Team. You can find him volunteering at his local polling place, planning his next house party, or keeping the party going on Twitter (@HiThereItsJosh).

CTCL at 4 years

Here at CTCL, we care a lot about voting and elections. We want election officials to be supported with training and tools so they can run a voting process that is trustworthy and inclusive. And we want the public to be able to easily find information so they can make decisions about how to participate in our democracy.

As a small but mighty team, we’ve been working towards these goals since 2015. So, as CTCL turns 4 years old this year, we’re looking back on 2018 and sharing some achievements that have moved us closer to our vision.

Telling our story

We recognize that our story and our ideas are valuable -- and who better to share them than us. Our executive director, Tiana Epps-Johnson, was invited to the TED stage this past November. She talked about what’s needed to bring the U.S. voting system into the 21st century and CTCL’s approach to make it happen.

Working in collaboration with others

We know that collaboration is fundamental to achieving ambitious goals. In January, our civic data team hosted its 3rd annual ballot data convening where we brought together 38 individuals from 25 organizations who use ballot data to drive civic participation. Topics of conversation included opportunities and challenges of working together as a field; new systems and standards for making collaboration possible; data and political geography availability; and how organizations define and measure their work’s impact.

In May, our government services team partnered with the Center for Civic Design to host a workshop on modernizing voter registration.

Workshop attendees review sticky notes

Workshop attendees review sticky notes

State and local election officials, a DMV administrator, researchers, and advocates attended the workshop and shared their ideas on how local election officials might best manage the effects of policy changes like Automatic Voter Registration. Using the research from this workshop, combined with interviews from the field, we produced the Voter Registration Modernization Guide in the Election Toolkit.   

Building on successful programs

In 2018, we doubled-down and focused on building and growing some of our core programs at CTCL. For example, the Election Toolkit continued to be a valuable resource for the election administration community. It’s a beautiful, accessible website where election officials can find free and low-cost tools to help promote civic engagement and make voting easier. Launched in June 2016 with 11 tools, in 2018 it grew to a total of 19 tools and over 40,000 unique site visitors.

After debuting our online training series in the summer of 2017, we expanded the menu of professional development courses for election officials in 2018. We teamed up with the Center for Democracy and Technology to build and deliver our most successful series to date, the cybersecurity series. Together, we trained over 300 election officials who serve nearly 50 million voting age citizens. Attendees learned cybersecurity terminology, the National Institute of Standards and Technology cybersecurity framework, and cybersecurity communication best practices so they can administer more secure and resilient elections across the country.

In November, CTCL’s Ballot Information Project once again powered tools and services that helped millions of people across the country answer the question, “What’s on my ballot?”. Our partnerships with search engines, social media sites, and civic engagement organizations ensure that voters can find the information they need in the places that they already look for it. We’re excited to continue expanding our ballot information offerings in 2019 -- stay tuned!

CTCL civic data team on Election Day 2018

CTCL civic data team on Election Day 2018

CTCL’s civic data isn’t just for civic engagement in November, however. The Governance Project is a nationwide dataset of our federal, state, and local elected officials that has been maintained by our civic data team since 2013. This data is made freely available via the Google Civic Information API and powers tools that help connect communities to their government year-round. Expanding on these datasets, the Reflective Democracy Campaign highlighted that more women and people of color ran for office in 2018 than previous years, better reflecting the people they represent.

Continuing to grow and develop as an organization

We had 5 full-time staff at CTCL’s first official staff retreat in 2016. Over time we’ve grown to 15 full-time staff in 2018! Our newest team members Sondra Grover, Keegan Hughes, and Josh Simon Goldman bring exceptional talent and energy to the operations and government services teams.

We also expanded our Advisory Committee of election experts from 8 to 10 members, including our most recent recruits Indra Arriaga from Alaska, Kim A. Barton from Alachua County, Florida, Norelys Consuegra from Rhode Island, and Maurice Turner from the Center for Democracy and Technology.

In addition, our executive director, Tiana Epps-Johnson, was chosen to join the inaugural class of Obama Fellows in 2018. She’s using this opportunity to learn with her cohort, cultivate leadership skills, and guide our organization to the next level.

If you can believe it, by this time next year it will be 2020. By then, we’ll see a larger professional network of election officials who are committed to administering more secure and inclusive elections and stronger partnerships with organizations that will engage and inform millions of people in the U.S. about their elected representatives.

And while the hours and weeks of work at CTCL all add up to years (and these annual blog posts), it’s really about adding up to something bigger -- a system that invites more people into the voting process and makes it easier for them to stay there.

Thanks for supporting the Center for Technology and Civic Life.

CTCL Hosting a Webinar on Automatic Voter Registration at Medicaid Agencies

Voter registration modernization isn’t just happening at election offices and motor vehicle departments. Medicaid agencies, which are also covered by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and several state Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) laws, are also updating how they manage voter registration data.

Led by Sunila Chilukuri, Senior Research and Policy Associate at State Innovation Exchange, Dan Meuse, State Health Policy Expert at Princeton University, and Pam Wilmot, Executive Director at Common Cause Massachusetts, this webinar will overview the Medicaid application and how it aligns with current NVRA compliance. We’ll also discuss how to assemble an automatic voter registration coalition and task force to address unique Medicaid challenges in your state.

Registration is free and all are welcome.

Key topics of the webinar

  • How the Medicaid application complies with NVRA

  • What systems are in place to verify Medicaid applications

  • An understanding of Medicaid interests and concerns

  • Advantages of creating a state coalition task force to implement automatic voter registration at Medicaid agencies

Curious about the previous webinars on modernizing voter registration? Check out the webinar recordings on Vimeo.

CTCL Hosting a Webinar on Automating Voter Address Updates

Voter registration modernization isn’t only (or even mostly) about registering new voters. It’s also about keeping voter rolls up-to-date, improving the accuracy of election data, and saving time for governments and voters. Across the country the voter registration process is being modernized in different ways at motor vehicle agencies and other agencies covered by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). And how these different modernizations get implemented continues to be a topic of conversation for election officials, advocates, and policy makers.

Led by Judd Choate, State Election Director in Colorado, and Chris Harvey, State Election Director in Georgia, this webinar will introduce the efficiency, cost-savings, and security advantages of automated voter address updates. We’ll also discuss some state-by-state comparisons on different approaches to implementing automated voter address updates without new legislation.  

Registration is free and all are welcome.

Key topics of the webinar include:

  • Broad strokes mechanisms & nuances of how it works

  • Data flow between agencies and levels of government

  • Advantages of automated voter address updates including efficiency, cost-savings, and security

  • State-by-state comparisons on different approaches

CTCL Hosting a Webinar on Voter Registration Data Transfer

Modernizing voter registration processes at motor vehicle agencies and other agencies covered by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) is one of the hottest topics of discussion today among state and local elections officials, state legislators, voter advocacy groups, and now Congress.

Led by Edgardo Cortés, David Franks, and John Lindback, this webinar will look beneath the surface of this hot topic to uncover the data needed to modernize voter registration and how it can be safely and securely transferred from one agency to another. We’ll also discuss the data you’ll need to evaluate the success of modernization projects.

By the end of the webinar, you’ll know more about:

  • What data resides in voter registration, DMV, and Medicaid databases

  • What data is needed to streamline and modernize the voter registration process

  • How data transfers work in modernized systems

  • What constitutes “success” for a new system and the data needed to measure success