CTCL Staff Hits the Road to Collect Voting Time Data on Election Day

For many people, Election Day means heading to the polls to cast their ballots. But for four of CTCL’s staff members, this past Election Day was spent on the road collecting important data on voting times. 

Working toward our goal to create a Voting Time Estimator tool for the Election Toolkit, we visited three metro areas and collected more than 3,300 vote times from 34 polling places. Along the way, we met lots of friendly people and got a feel for what it’s like to vote in the communities we visited.

Denver, Colorado

Executive Director Tiana Epps-Johnson and Donny Bridges, Director of Civic Data, collected data in the Mile High City, Denver. After an easy flight, they used Denver’s new light rail service to get into the city.

Donny and Tiana at the Denver Elections Division office. Photo by Tiana Epps-Johnson.

Donny and Tiana at the Denver Elections Division office. Photo by Tiana Epps-Johnson.

Stationed at the Denver Elections Division office downtown, they were able to watch voters marking ballots while also seeing election workers process ballots and verify signatures. 

Denver’s ballots contained 1-2 school board races and 9-10 initiatives. According to Donny, vote times varied based on voter behavior.

“The average vote time hovered around four minutes,” Donny explains, “with some folks coming in completely prepared and getting out within a minute and others taking much longer in contemplating their choices.”

Even though their focus was on voting times, Tiana and Donny were also struck by Denver’s innovative voting system -- in particular, all the available voting options. Colorado mails ballots to all voters prior to the election, and voters can return them by mail, vote them in person at vote centers, or deposit them using convenient drop boxes.

“Denver is an amazing example of a process that is designed to be as convenient as possible for as many voters as possible,” Tiana observes. “You can even get a ballot to-go on Election Day as long as you return it to a drop box by the time polls close!”

Donny was especially charmed by a drop box that was set up in the middle of a road downtown for drivers (and cyclists!) to use. “Although, I didn’t envy the poor poll workers who had to stand out there in the sub-freezing weather!” he says. 

All told, Tiana, Donny, and a few Elections Division staff members collected over 270 voting times -- all while managing to avoid frostbite. 

St. Louis County, Missouri

Road tripping in a rental car, Director of Government Services Whitney May traveled to St. Louis County, Missouri, where she visited 20 (!) polling places. Data collection here was performed by a team of 20 high school students who were organized and trained by Board of Elections staff. 

Driving around St. Louis County, Whitney met with each student, answered their questions about the project and about using the Voting Timer App, and reminded them about data collection protocols. 

She was impressed with their dedication and thoughtfulness.

“Every high school student who collected data in St. Louis County was absolutely fantastic,” Whitney emphasizes. “They were professional, curious, and focused on their task. All of the students recognized the value of being a poll worker, whether it was for compensation, community service hours, or college application materials.”

Tyreese Jones and Clair Osterhaus -- two of the high school students Whitney worked with in St. Louis County. Photo by Whitney May.

Tyreese Jones and Clair Osterhaus -- two of the high school students Whitney worked with in St. Louis County. Photo by Whitney May.

Ballots in St. Louis County were focused on referenda, including either one or two initiatives per ballot. Whitney noted that the average voting time was about 30 seconds, while turnout was a bit over 10%. 

In between visiting polling places, Whitney participated in a Facebook Live video broadcast alongside Democratic Director of Elections Eric Fey and Charles Stewart III of MIT to talk about the Voting Time Estimator project. 

Something that Whitney observed about St. Louis County is an emphasis on carrying out election procedures in a bipartisan way.

“Polling places are staffed with members of both major political parties,” Whitney reports, “and election results are returned to the election office by a 2-member team: 1 person from each party. Both major political parties are also explicitly represented in full-time staff at the election office.”

Ultimately, St. Louis County’s army of high school data collectors gathered an incredible 2,800 vote times, playing a huge role in helping us reach our data goals. 

Providence County, Rhode Island

Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Government Services Associate Kurt Sampsel visited three suburban towns in Providence County, Rhode Island to time voters. Enjoying the pretty autumn sights of New England, Kurt started in East Providence, then drove to Lincoln, and then to Scituate, visiting a total of six polling places. 

At each polling place, Kurt introduced himself to poll workers, explained his reason for the visit, and set up at a discreet spot where he could observe voters. Poll workers kindly offered him coffee, cookies, and homemade treats that helped him keep his energy up during the 13-hour day. 

In addition to friendly poll workers, Kurt enjoyed the opportunity to meet Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea at a polling place in East Providence. 

“Secretary Gorbea has done a lot to encourage civic pride and make voting easier in the state,” Kurt explains, “and she was quite supportive of my data collection work and curious about what it would reveal.”

Kurt with Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea. Photo by Rob Rock.

Kurt with Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea. Photo by Rob Rock.

The East Providence ballot was the largest one that Kurt timed, with six referenda, while the Lincoln and Scituate ballots each had just a single school bond measure. Even with these single-item ballots, Kurt saw strong engagement in both towns. 

He also witnessed the impact of new voting equipment -- especially the electronic poll books -- on the voting experience. 

“Every single poll worker I spoke to, whether young or old, loves the new e-poll books,” Kurt says, “and voters liked the surprise of not having to sort themselves by last name when approaching the check-in table, like with the paper poll books. In the entire day, I’m not sure I saw a single hiccup at any of the check-in stations.”

At the end of the day, Kurt had timed 292 voters, with average times of about 2.3 minutes in East Providence and 29 seconds in Lincoln and Scituate. 

Nationwide

While we were out collecting voting time data, volunteers around the country were doing the same in their own jurisdictions. In addition to the locations we visited, we received Election Day data from dedicated volunteers in the following places:

  • Inyo County, California
  • Cleveland County, North Carolina
  • Hunterdon County, New Jersey
  • Alexandria, Virginia
  • Arlington, Virginia

Together, this data will help us move forward with our goal of collecting 25,000 vote times for at least 500 unique ballots.

Thanks to all the election officials who participated in this research project to help improve the voting process. Your data collection efforts are powering a free tool that will be available to benefit all election officials in 2018. 

Would you like to host us for data collection in 2018? Or, would you like to collect data yourself? We’d love to talk with you. Email Kurt at kurt@techandciviclife.org to start the conversation.

Job: Operations Manager

Position: Operations Manager
Benefits: Vision, Dental, & Medical Insurance and Cell Phone Reimbursement
Location: Strong preference for Chicago, IL although remote locations may be considered
Type: Full Time
Salary: $60,000 - $70,000
Start Date: January 2018

Position Description

The Operations Manager will be responsible for leading our operational, financial, and administrative functions; overseeing and maintaining a set of internal functions that make it easier for us to hit our goals and for staff to thrive; and serving as the primary go-to for organizational problem solving. This position will report directly to the Executive Director.

Responsibilities

Lead our operational, financial, and administrative functions

  • Lead all administrative and operations activities to ensure smooth day-to-day functioning.
  • Oversee human resource activities, including payroll processing and benefits management.
  • Perform day-to-day financial management, including: processing cash receipts; paying invoices, coding expenses and reimbursements; and closing monthly books with accountant.
  • Manage contract accountant, independent auditors, and banking relationships. Lead our annual audit. 
  • Ensure we are in full legal compliance by maintaining an open line with our lawyers and proactively looking for and flagging potential trouble spots.
  • Manage supplies and equipment.
  • Provide support to the Executive Director in management of vendor relationships, contracts, and records.

Ensure organizational effectiveness

  • Coordinate annual review process.
  • Play a key role in developing agendas for our two annual staff meetings.
  • Coordinate logistics and materials for staff meetings, board meetings, annual convenings or conferences led by the civic data and government services teams, and other events as needed. 
  • Serve as the hub of our talent needs by coordinating searches and helping hiring managers identify and recruit great people to join our team.
  • Institutionalize onboarding and off-boarding best practices and materials.
  • Create and maintain various management documents, including our employee manual, job descriptions, training plans, and organizational chart.
  • Support the Executive Director in developing internal processes and driving culture shifts as we grow and mature as an organization.

Serve as the go-to for organizational problem solving

  • Proactively spot and resolve ad hoc challenges that arise. 
  • Serve as a thought-partner to our Executive Director and senior leadership team in identifying and resolving organizational or individual challenges as they arise. 
  • Identify additional ways in which we could improve and take on other responsibilities as we grow.

Desired Qualifications

A successful candidate for the Operations Manager position will have a comprehensive understanding of our mission and demonstrate a proven track record of success. In addition, while no candidate will possess every quality, the successful candidate will possess many of the following qualifications and personal attributes. Even if you aren’t sure but are excited about the position, we encourage you to apply! 

  • Solutions-oriented: You proactively develop solutions to challenges and push to get past roadblocks.
  • Ownership and hustle: You care deeply about getting results, and you do what it takes to get them, including, anticipating problems, offering creative solutions, driving work forward, and course-correcting when needed.
  • Strong attention to detail: You pay close attention to detail and ensure that any task or work product - big or small - is thorough and accurate.
  • Inclusive: You connect with people from all kinds of backgrounds and make sure everyone feels like they belong here.
  • Strong customer service orientation: You make it easier for staff to do their own jobs. You view your work as supporting the whole by helping to make their lives as easy and straightforward as possible
  • Integrity: You can be trusted with confidential organizational and staff information.

About CTCL

CTCL is a non-partisan, non-profit 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 administrators so they can update the ways they use technology to communicate with voters. We also do this by publishing free, open-source civic datasets that are used in some of the most powerful tools that drive civic participation. 

To date, we’ve built a knowledge network of hundreds of local election administrators through a program we call ELECTricity. And we have published civic datasets that answer questions like 'What’s on my ballot?' and 'Who represents me?', which have been accessed over 200 million times.

Read more about our work here:

To Apply

Applications will be accepted and interviews will be conducted on a rolling basis. To apply:

  1. Submit a short application at https://www.techandciviclife.org/operations-manager-application and email your resume to operations@techandciviclife.org.
  2. People who demonstrate that they are qualified in their application materials will have the opportunity to complete a test.
  3. People who perform well on the test will be asked to participate in an interview(s).
  4. Based on the application, test results, interviews, and reference checks, one person will be selected for the position.

The Center for Technology and Civic Life is proud to be an Equal Opportunity Employer. We encourage people of all races, colors, religions, national origins, sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, sexes, ages, abilities, branches of military service, and political party affiliations to apply.

CTCL Advisor, Ricky Hatch, Recognized in Utah as County Auditor of the Year

Weber County Clerk/Auditor Ricky Hatch was recently recognized as the 2017 County Auditor of the Year by the Clerk/Auditors Association of Utah (CAAU) . CAAU is a membership organization of Utah’s elected county clerks and auditors that honors stand-out members each year.

Ricky Hatch wearing a suit and tie

Ricky is an active member of the election community at the local, state, federal, and international level. He absolutely loves working in elections and, through his years of public service, he knows the value of a strong team. “The real kudos go to the Weber County Clerk/Auditor team”, Ricky says. “Because they are so good at what they do, I can devote a little time helping to promote activities, issues, and training at the state and federal level.”

In addition to being a member of the Executive Board of the International Association of Government Officials, Ricky also serves on the CTCL Advisory Committee. Fellow CTCL Advisor and Forsyth County Director of Elections, Tim Tsujii adds, "Ricky is most deserving of this recognition. I hold him in the highest regard for his insight and dedication to advancing the field of elections administration.”  

From using tech solutions that streamline Weber County staff communication to working with federal agencies to keep elections secure, Ricky is an innovative and thoughtful leader. CTCL is proud to have him share his expertise on our Advisory Committee. Congratulations, Ricky!

CTCL Helps Edwards County, Kansas Build a New Election Website

Residents of Edwards County, Kansas have a new online home for important civic information thanks to the efforts of the Edwards County Clerk’s office and the Center for Technology and Civic Life. 

Located in central Kansas, Edwards County has a population of about 3,000 people. The county seat, Kinsley, is known as Midway U.S.A. for its position exactly halfway between New York City and San Francisco on historic U.S. Route 50.

Before working with us, the Edwards County Clerk’s office didn’t provide any election information online, meaning that locals had to either visit the office in person or go to the Kansas Secretary of State’s website to get information. But County Clerk Gina Schuette and Deputy Clerk Stephanie Brake knew that creating an informative, user-friendly website could really benefit voters.

Go team! L-R: Stephanie Brake, Krysten Brake, Kurt Sampsel, Gina Schuette, and Whitney May.

Go team! L-R: Stephanie Brake, Krysten Brake, Kurt Sampsel, Gina Schuette, and Whitney May.

Gina and Stephanie learned about our Building a New Election Website course in May, when CTCL’s Whitney May and Kurt Sampsel presented at the annual conference of the Kansas County Clerks and Election Officials Association in Manhattan, Kansas. 

Before long, Whitney and Kurt were traveling to Kinsley to help the Clerk’s office get started setting up the website template and filling it with content.

The website template is designed to meet the needs of both election officials and voters. Based on research about how voters look for civic information online, the template prioritizes answers to voters’ top questions and incorporates principles of plain design and plain language. The template is also mobile friendly, making it easy to use on a smartphone or tablet. Plus, it’s easy for election staff to maintain throughout election cycles.

Working with Gina, Stephanie, and Clerk II Krysten Brake, we got the new Edwards County Elections website ready in just 2 days. 

The original County Clerk page (L) compared to the new Edwards County Elections site (R)

The original County Clerk page (L) compared to the new Edwards County Elections site (R)

Now, visitors can quickly and easily find what’s on the ballot, view election results, locate their polling place, and more. 

In addition to helping the Clerk’s staff set up the website infrastructure, we covered best practices in civic communication, introduced basic web analytics, and helped the staff create a new Facebook Page for the Clerk’s office

Edwards County is the latest jurisdiction to join our growing list of election authorities that are using our website template. Moving forward, we’re excited to work with more officials in Kansas and beyond to help them create straightforward, effective election websites to better serve their communities.

Do you need to build a new election website, or would you like to make improvements to your current one? We’d love to help. Get in touch at courses@techandciviclife.org to tell us about your needs.

Election Officials: Get Involved with National Voter Registration Day

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 is National Voter Registration Day. Over 2,000 groups will be organizing to register voters nationwide, and to be successful, they need the support of state and local election officials.

Held every September, National Voter Registration Day calls attention to the importance of registering to vote and helps people get registered. Since 2012, over 1.4 million people have registered or updated their registrations thanks to the efforts of thousands of #NationalVoterRegistrationDay volunteers and partners. 

NVRD logo.png

The work of community groups is at the heart of the holiday, but election officials have an important role to play, too. 

National Voter Registration Day’s organizers emphasize 3 things that election offices can do -- some big, some small -- to help make this year’s registration events successful:

  1. Sign up to be a partner. Being a partner means giving support and leadership to the groups that are participating in registration events. You can sign up to be a partner at the NVRD website.
  2. Encourage your community members to get involved. Chances are good that you know many people and groups with an enthusiasm for civic engagement. Encourage them to get involved, and spread the word through your local media. The NVRD website has a press release template to help you get started.
  3. Promote National Voter Registration Day on social media. Tell your audience about the importance of voter registration and let them know about registration events on Twitter, Facebook, and all of your social media channels. Use the hashtag #NationalVoterRegistrationDay, and for sample posts, graphics, and other helpful resources, check out the NVRD partner toolkit.

When election officials get involved with National Voter Registration Day, everyone benefits.

As an official, trusted source of civic information in your community, you can empower participants and support civic engagement. At the same time, by doing your part to ensure registrations are completed correctly and submitted on time, you’ll be helping your fellow election officials by working to make processing registrations easier.

For more information, visit the National Voter Registration Day website. Be sure to follow the holiday on social media, too!

CTCL’s Summer School Brings Together Election Officials from Coast to Coast

This past July and August, CTCL offered for the first time our professional development courses for election officials in a convenient online classroom. To put the courses in the reach of everyone, we made them just $30.00. 

Even though it was our first time delivering curricula online, our Summer School program was a big success, bringing together over 100 participants from California to Rhode Island and everywhere in between.

Title slide from our Accessible Communication course

Title slide from our Accessible Communication course

CTCL has been offering professional development courses since our founding in 2015, but before Summer School, they were only provided in person at election offices. While the personal touch can be great, these in-person courses bring travel and lodging expenses, and they require participants to take hours away from their normal work.

We’ve known that quick, affordable, online courses could help us bring our training to more people. 

In late spring of this year, with the guidance and insight of our Advisory Committee, we prepared condensed, 90-minute versions of our most popular courses, selected a price, and started to promote them. We also created engaging, shareable videos and graphics to help spread the word through social media. 

Screenshot from one of the Summer School promotional videos

Screenshot from one of the Summer School promotional videos

We offered the 4 courses on successive Wednesdays in July and August at 1:00 p.m. Central, hoping to involve participants from all time zones. For our video conferencing platform, we used Zoom, a straightforward program that allowed us to share slides, send polls, chat with participants, and produce video recordings for later reference. 

Not knowing how much engagement we’d get, we initially decided that if 5-10 people would sign up for each of our 4 courses, we’d declare Summer School a success. But ultimately, we ended up with 10 times that number: our most popular course had 74 participants, and even our least-attended course brought in 47 people. 

We were pretty excited.

Who were the participants? Our 102 students came from 34 county offices, 8 municipal offices, and 3 state offices that administer elections for, in total, over 17 million American voters. 

Big election authorities like Dallas County, Texas (with 1.29 million registered voters) attended Summer School, as did small jurisdictions like the city of Houghton, Michigan (home to 3,056 registered voters).

Our Summer School participants joined us from across the country

Our Summer School participants joined us from across the country

Responses to the courses have been positive, with many participants sharing plans to immediately use what they learned.

“I loved the courses,” stated one participant, adding, “I am already applying tools I learned from Summer School.”

“I have never experienced such an interactive webinar,” another participant shared, explaining, “My coworker and I were so inspired, we have made a weekly game plan to address our Website to make it more assessable.”

With the positive experience of Summer School behind us, we’re already thinking about plans for future online courses. We hope to offer these same 4 courses again in the winter or spring of 2018, and in addition, we’re in the process of developing new curricula based on feedback that we’ve received. 

Stay tuned for details as we prepare to expand our online course offerings. To share your ideas or requests for future courses, email us at courses@techandciviclife.org.

The Election Toolkit at 1 Year

Last month, the Election Toolkit turned 1 year old. To mark the occasion, we’re looking back at the Toolkit’s origins as well as its growth and impact during this first year. 

We’ll also hear from members of the team who created the Toolkit about why it continues to be an exceptional resource for the election officials and other civically minded folks who use it. 

At this point, electiontools.org has received over 10,000 unique visits, and they’ve come from all 50 states. Election officials from across the nation have used the tools and have shared their stories. 

But the Toolkit started off as just an idea. 

Noah Praetz, Director of Elections for Suburban Cook County, Illinois, says that he came on board as a project partner in 2015 because he felt the Toolkit could address a profound need.

“The overwhelming majority of election administrators run elections with at most a handful of dedicated staff,” Noah explains. “Unlike the big jurisdictions, the administrators must do everything themselves -- they must be experts at everything. It’s been great to see the Toolkit spring up to provide an easy platform from which officials can harness the tools of 21st century.”

Noah was one of 19 election officials who helped kick off the Toolkit project at a meeting in Chicago in December 2015. The purpose of the meeting was simple: to suggest ideas for tools in a spirit of supportive cooperation. 

The Toolkit kickoff meeting, with Noah Praetz and Jennifer Morrell (Arapahoe County, CO) in the foreground. Photo by Julie Anderson.

The Toolkit kickoff meeting, with Noah Praetz and Jennifer Morrell (Arapahoe County, CO) in the foreground. Photo by Julie Anderson.

Whitney May, Director of Government Services at the Center for Technology and Civic Life, was at the meeting, too. Whitney created the original proposal to make the Toolkit, submitting a pitch to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s News Challenge on Elections in early 2015.

“One of my favorite parts of the Toolkit story is how it was created,” says Whitney. “The Toolkit is a resource built by, for, and with local election officials. Plus, in addition to election officials, the Toolkit also benefitted from the expertise of developers, designers, and accessibility experts. Together, we created a beautiful web experience for everyone who visits the site.”

This ethos of collaboration has always been fundamental to the Toolkit, which ultimately launched in June 2016 with 11 tools, complete with step-by-step instructions. In the year since then, we’ve increased the number from 11 to 16.

Including tools geared to communication, testing, and resource management, the 5 new additions have gone a long way to expand the Toolkit’s range of offerings:

  1. Polling Place Resource Planner
  2. Voting Timer App 
  3. Who Won What?
  4. Usability Testing Kit
  5. Facebook Live for Election Officials

All are free to use. 

And while we’ve added new tools, we’ve also been mindful to keep the original tools up to date by revising instructions and contributing new materials and resources. 

It’s these extra elements, after all, that bring added value to the technologies featured in the kit. 

They’re one of the things that project partner Whitney Quesenbery, Co-director of the Center for Civic Design, says she emphasizes when she introduces the Toolkit to new audiences.

“First, I always say that this isn’t just a list of links, but tools that have been used — and often developed — in election offices, so they have passed the most important hurdle. The second important thing,” Whitney continues, “is that it doesn’t matter what skills you bring to using one of the tools. ElectionTools.org breaks down the process of understanding what each tool can do and how to set it up and keep using it.”

Traffic to electiontools.org has come from all 50 states

Traffic to electiontools.org has come from all 50 states

In the year following the kit’s launch, Whitney May and Kurt Sampsel of CTCL have brought this message to audiences of election officials, political scientists, and civic tech professionals, presenting the Toolkit at conferences from Ocean City, Maryland to San Francisco, California.

Now in its second year, the collection of Election Tools continues to expand and find new users. Several new tools are in the process of research and development, including a template for making pocket-sized voter guides, a how-to guide for drafting a request for proposal (RFP), and an estimator to help predict how long it will take to vote a ballot.

You can play a role in making the Toolkit even more successful in Year 2! Here’s how: 

Requesting Data on Voting Times

Have you ever timed how long it takes to vote a ballot? If so, we’d love for you to share your data for one of our projects.

CTCL is working to build a tool that will estimate how long it will take voters to mark a ballot based on its contents. Knowing how long it takes to vote is critical for helping to avoid bottlenecks at the polls, and it’s our goal to develop a simple, reliable tool for election officials to estimate voting times.

To do that, we’re collecting data on how voting times are linked to ballots. 

Here’s the information we’re looking for:

  • The voting times you’ve recorded
  • A copy of the ballot
  • Information about the voting method/equipment
  • A brief explanation of your timing process

To create a statistically significant sample, we hope to collect 50 or more vote times from 500 or more polling places. But even if you have only a small amount of data, we’d like to hear from you. Please get in touch by emailing kurt@techandciviclife.org.

CTCL Launches New Summer School for Election Officials

This summer, we’re offering our 90-minute professional development courses for the first time in a convenient online classroom. It’s an easy, affordable way for you to get together with election officials from around the country while learning new skills to better serve your community. 

We’re calling it Summer School.

To help put the courses within everyone’s reach, we’ve set a price that’s sure to fit within your budget: just thirty bucks per course. And to kick off Summer School, we’re also offering an orientation that’s free for anyone to attend. 

The courses will be held on Wednesdays in July and August at 1:00 p.m. CST.

  • July 12: Summer School Orientation
  • July 19: Social Media for Voter Engagement
  • July 26: Improving Your Election Website
  • August 2: Accessible Communication for Election Offices
  • August 9: Collecting, Analyzing, and Visualizing Election Data

For more details and to sign up, check out our Summer School page. 

Want to read more about our curricula? See our Professional Development Courses page for more information.

CTCL Presents the Election Toolkit at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference

At CTCL, we recognize that, even though the intended audience for our Election Toolkit is election administrators, it’s a useful resource for many different groups interested in civic engagement, elections, and local government. 

One of our key supporters, the Democracy Fund, recognizes that, too. That’s why they recently invited us to give a presentation at the Midwest Political Science Association conference focused specifically on how the Election Toolkit can be used for political science research. 

MPSA is a massive conference. Over 5,000 political science scholars come to this conference, and they come from the Midwest, of course, but also from across the country and around the world. The Democracy Fund invited us meet this audience as part of a new Tech Classroom presentation series. 

Tech Classroom session led by fellow presenter Normand Peladeau

Tech Classroom session led by fellow presenter Normand Peladeau

We put together a presentation that would introduce the Toolkit to this new audience before zeroing in on how the tools can be used for research. With knowledge of the Toolkit and with academic research experience of his own, Government Services Associate Kurt Sampsel represented CTCL at the conference. 

Knowing that scholars are motivated by research questions, we paired up a sampling of political science research questions with tools from the Toolkit that a researcher could use to find answers to their questions.

First, we showed how several tools can be used to collect data valuable to political scientists.

For instance, you could use the Voting Timer App to deal with a research question like “How long does it take to vote?” If you’re curious about how long people wait to vote, you could time voters with the Voter Wait Time Measurement Tool. To find out how voters use election department websites, you can work with the Basic Web Analytics tool. Finally, you can use the Polling Place Resource Planner to tackle a question like “What resources are needed to avoid long waits at the polls?”

Slide pairing the Voting Timer App with a research question

Slide pairing the Voting Timer App with a research question

Second, we demonstrated how political scientists can use the tools as the basis for experiments. To measure the potential impact of a tech intervention, a researcher could compare outcomes from election offices that are using a tool (an experimental group) against outcomes where the tool isn’t being used (a control group). 

For example, to find out if better voting information could cut the number of provisional ballots, you could compare election authorities using the Election Website Template with those that aren’t. To see if civic outreach campaigns can affect voter turnout, you could do something similar with the Text Messaging Tool. To investigate if community groups can increase the ranks of registered voters, you can study the areas where the Voter Registration Drive Kit is used. 

All told, the MPSA conference was a great opportunity to introduce the Toolkit to a new audience and to look at the project from a fresh perspective. We also enjoyed meeting political scientists and fellow civic tech professionals. 

Want to explore the MPSA conference? Check out the #MPSA17 hashtag on Twitter

We’re happy to speak with anyone who’s interested in using the Toolkit for research projects. If that’s you, email us at hello@techandciviclife.org to start the conversation.