About CTCL

CTCL’s Executive Director Included Among World’s 100 Most Influential People in Digital Government

Tiana Epps-Johnson, executive director at the Center for Technology and Civic Life, is honored to be included among the impressive group of international leaders.

CTCL executive director, Tiana Epps-Johnson

CTCL executive director, Tiana Epps-Johnson

The Apolitical 100 Most Influential People in Digital Government for 2019 is a list of global public servants from all levels of government along with those from the private sector, nonprofits, and academia.

“We’ve seen growing momentum around digital to solve policy issues and design better services for citizens around the world,” says Apolitical’s Executive Chairman Lisa Witter. “As this burgeoning field continues to grow, so too does the breadth of people and perspectives driving change. This list celebrates the people behind this tremendous progress.”

Apolitical and the Center for Technology & Civic Life both believe that government plays a critical role in solving our hardest challenges. With this in mind, CTCL helps election officials adopt the tools and skills necessary to meet the changing needs of today’s public while also making sure voters can find basic civic information without jumping through hoops.

Based in London, Apolitical “is the global peer-to-peer platform for government. They connect policymakers to the solutions, people, and partners they need to tackle increasingly complex and fast-moving problems”.

Their mission is to make government smarter to solve the world’s hardest challenges.

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's Executive Director Selected as 2018 Obama Foundation Fellow

Selected out of more than 20,000 applicants from 191 countries, the Center for Technology and Civic Life’s executive director, Tiana Epps-Johnson, is joining a diverse set of civic innovators from around the world in the inaugural Obama Foundation Fellows Class.

This first class of Fellows brings together 20 individuals representing 11 countries across the globe, who are confronting many of the world’s most pressing problems through civic innovation. Fellows are organizers, inventors, artists, entrepreneurs, educators, and more. They bring together a variety of disciplines and apply their knowledge to a range of missions.

"I am so excited for this opportunity to learn with and from other people who are tackling big civic challenges”, says Tiana. “And I'm beyond grateful for this investment in my leadership. I look forward to growing the ways I'm able to support the work we're doing at CTCL to modernize the U.S. voting system so that it works for all of us."

The two-year, non-residential Fellowship will give Tiana and other selected Fellows hands-on training and exposure to help them amplify the impact of their work while inspiring other civic innovators.

Fellows will participate in four multi-day gatherings to collaborate with one another, connect with potential partners, and break down silos to advance their work. The first Fellows gathering will be in Chicago in May.

Each Fellow will also develop and pursue with the Foundation a personalized plan to leverage the fellowship and Obama Foundation resources to take their work to the next level. As Fellows put their plans into action, the Obama Foundation will assist with access to mentors, coaches, and additional resources.

“The 2018 Obama Foundation Fellows come from diverse backgrounds but share a common desire to make positive change and create the world as it should be,” said David Simas, CEO of the Obama Foundation. “By bringing these individuals together, we hope to help amplify the work of our Fellows so it has a widespread impact. On behalf of President and Mrs. Obama and the Obama Foundation family, I congratulate our new Fellows and look forward to working with them.”

Find out more about the Obama Foundation Fellowship at www.obama.org/fellowship. Join the conversation on Twitter using #ObamaFellows.

Tiana Epps-Johnson is the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Technology and Civic Life. Prior to CTCL, she was the New Organizing Institute's Election Administration Director. At the Center, she and her team provide resources and training to support local election administrators in modernizing the ways they communicate with voters. They also publish free, open-source civic datasets that have been accessed over 200 million times through some of the most powerful tools that drive civic participation. Tiana holds an MSc in Politics and Communication from the London School of Economics and a BA in Political Science from Stanford University. Additionally, in 2015 Tiana was selected as an inaugural member of the Technology and Democracy fellowship at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School.

CTCL Civic Data Research in the News

The CTCL Civic Data team is gearing up for a big year in 2018 -- stay tuned for announcements about our data release schedule -- but last week our past years’ research was again in the national spotlight.

Since 2015, CTCL has partnered with the Women Donors Network’s Reflective Democracy campaign on research into the demographics of candidates and elected officials. This research takes our existing candidate and elected official datasets and adds race and gender, through both independent research and matching to existing modeled data. Our 2015 research on the race and gender of prosecutors, which was featured in the New York Times, found that 95% of elected prosecutors in the United States were white and nearly 80% were white men. This research was again highlighted in the March 14th episode of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, in her segment about prosecutorial discretion. You can watch the clip, with our research appearing around the 2:50 mark, here. [Heads up: the clip includes some salty language.]

More recently, CTCL & WDN’s Reflective Democracy research was included as part of Cosmopolitan’s How to Run for Office feature. This series, appearing both online and in print, focused on personal stories and articles encouraging women across the political spectrum to run for elective office. On March 13, the 2018 National Magazine Awards for Print and Digital Media (known as the Ellies for the award’s pachydermous shape) honored the series with the Ellie in the Personal Service category.

CTCL is proud of the role our research plays in supporting award winning journalism, and we look forward to continuing our work to help understand how communities across the country work with and are represented by their government.

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!

Introducing the CTCL Advisory Committee

The Center for Technology and Civic Life’s Government Services team organizes a network of election officials who believe that technology can improve our democracy. This looks like training people who work in local government to use technology to promote civic engagement and make voting easier.

Since launching our organization in 2015, our team has trained over 1,000 election officials on topics that have ranged from online voter engagement to data visualization to our most recent collaborative project, the Election Toolkit. In 2017 we aim to reach 1,000 more election officials with a new menu of courses that meet the modern needs of the profession.

Reaching our goals requires us to think critically about the services we provide and our outreach to election officials. With this in mind, we formed an advisory committee.

In early 2017 we recruited an advisory committee of election professionals to help us shape the content of our Government Services professional development courses and expand the reach of CTCL programs.

And on March 27, we brought our advisors together for the first time at the Chicago Community Trust.

The morning started with everyone participating in a “speed dating” icebreaker exercise so we could figure out what a room of election geeks are passionate about besides electronic poll books. Then we discussed CTCL’s ambitious mission, staff, and supporters. In addition to learning more about each other, we used this in-person meeting to put our advisors to work and gather some feedback from them.

After lunch we reviewed our nonprofit approach to professional development and sales. Our advisors were then given questions about our approach that guided both individual reflection and small group discussions.

Advisors review new training outlines

Advisors review new training outlines

We began the group discussion with advisors reporting their initial gut responses to our new curricula and service delivery. They also told us what they’d like to see added to our current list of courses.

Then advisors shared ideas about our sales process -- thinking about their own experiences of how they’ve heard about and purchased professional development classes. Overall, we wrapped up the meeting with a collection of helpful next steps to consider and with everyone wanting to dig even deeper into the conversation.

Thanks to their decades of experience and thoughtful feedback, we’re already implementing their expert advice to help us reach our goals. And we can’t wait to continue engaging our advisors over the next 18 months so we might deliver the best training courses to the most election officials! We hope you’re excited as we are.

What about you? Do you have ideas about how to enhance our professional development programs for election officials? Take a look and let us know what you think by emailing us at hello@techandciviclife.org.