Election Officials Gather in Chicago for Toolkit Workshop

Election officials from the across the country took a gamble when they accepted an invitation to Chicago in December.  And we are so grateful they did!

Toolkit workshop participants pose for a group shot. Photo credit: Dan O’Neil

Toolkit workshop participants pose for a group shot. Photo credit: Dan O’Neil

The Civic Engagement Toolkit for Local Election Officials will be a collection of tested technology solutions for some of the biggest problems facing election officials. Going live in 2016, the Toolkit will help election officials serve their communities more effectively -- and more easily -- in preparation for the 2016 General Election and beyond.

On Thursday, December 17 we organized a workshop to set the priorities for the Toolkit. The workshop was facilitated by Nancy Frishberg and Whitney Quesenbery from the Center for Civic Design. It was hosted in a beautiful conference space that was generously donated by the Chicago Community Trust.

Let’s take a look at the data from the day:

  • 19 election officials serving 7.18 million registered voters
  • 277 tool ideas
  • 40 proposed tool categories
  • 37 show-and-tell items

At the workshop election officials participated in small-group brainstorming and ranking activities to define the most pressing needs they’re facing in the 2016 elections. In less than an hour the group generated 277 ideas for tools. That’s a lot of sticky notes! These ideas were combined with the over 50 online submissions that we've received since August. The tool categories ranged from “Poll workers” to “Swag” to “Graphics and visualizations”.

Participants were encouraged to connect with each other online and keep the conversation going using #ElectionTools.

In addition to brainstorming tools they’d like to use, participants shared tools and programs they’ve already used effectively in their jurisdictions. We posted show-and-tell materials on the windows that face Lake Michigan. For multiple reasons, the view was impressive. It was an inspiring display of how election offices are increasing civic participation in communities large and small. We saw apps, student art contests, a wait time calculator, voter guides, websites, and more.

Show-and-tell materials posted in the window facing Lake Michigan.

Show-and-tell materials posted in the window facing Lake Michigan.

We wrapped up the day with -- you guessed it -- a voting exercise. Individuals used a stamp to mark the tools they were most interested in learning more about. The tools featured in the Toolkit will aim to address many of the needs identified at the Chicago workshop. Over the next three months we will be prototyping the Toolkit website, testing its usability, and writing how-to materials for featured tools. Testing and preparation will take place in spring 2016, and we plan to publish the Toolkit in early summer.

You are invited to learn more about the Toolkit and sign up to participate: http://www.techandciviclife.org/toolkit/

About our project funding and partners

The Toolkit is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s News Challenge on Elections, which sponsors breakthrough ideas to better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during, and after elections. 

Local election offices are a trusted source of nonpartisan civic information for voters, campaigns, and the media. And we saw the Knight News Challenge as an opportunity to work with local election officials in communities large and small so they can use the best tools to share fundamental civic information and run excellent elections.

The Toolkit is a collaborative effort. We are honored to work in partnership with the Center for Civic Design, the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, the Inyo County Clerk-Recorder-Registrar, and the Suburban Cook County Clerk.

For more information on the Knight Foundation's News Challenge, visit newschallenge.org.