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.
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?”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation.