2017 was another year of growth and impact for our small, but mighty team. We’re excited to share our 2017 highlights and a sneak peak at what we’re up to this year.
Building a network of advisors
At CTCL, we know that teamwork makes the dream work. In February 2017, we recruited an Advisory Committee to shape our curriculum and expand the reach of our Government Services work. The Advisory Committee is comprised of 8 election experts from across the country.
To date, we've convened four times to discuss updates to the Election Toolkit, ideas for new courses, and civic data. Our advisors have been instrumental to strengthening the CTCL brand and helping us reach more election officials. Because of their outreach, our ELECTricity network grew to over 1,000 members in 2017.
Fostering civic data collaboration
In March 2017 CTCL’s Civic Data team hosted our second ballot data convening at Google DC. This annual meeting, which is made possible with support from Democracy Fund, brought together 37 people from 24 organizations that collect ballot data and/or build voter-facing ballot tools.
The 2017 convening had three objectives:
- Share learnings from the 2016 election cycle.
- Identify concrete ways we as a field can improve ballot data collection and expand civic data’s impact.
- Launch working groups to implement mutually identified solutions.
Following the March convening, working groups were formed to collaborate in four areas:
- political geography,
- data collection & sources,
- identifiers, and
- audience & impact.
Since the 2017 convening, the working groups have already made concrete advancements in each issue area. This includes completing an analysis of the state of states’ GIS systems based on surveying done by new working group member the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), creating a new governance structure for Open Civic Data Identifiers, conducting a shared research scan on audiences and impact for civic engagement, and beginning the process for sharing primary-source information among ballot data collection groups.
And this work has continued into 2018! In January we held our third convening in Washington, DC. Together we reflected on our 2017 collaboration and identified priorities for our 2018 work.
Launching online professional development courses for election officials
The CTCL Government Services team advances the tech skills of election officials through professional development. To keep our courses convenient, affordable, and practical, we decided to deliver the content in a modern way -- through an online classroom.
With the guidance and insight of our Advisory Committee, we prepared condensed, 90-minute versions of our most popular courses:
- Social Media for Voter Engagement,
- Improving Your Election Website,
- Accessible Communication for Election Offices, and
- Collection, Analyzing, and Visualizing Election Data.
Courses were offered on successive Wednesdays in July and August of 2017.
Our experiment with online curriculum delivery was a success! Attendees ranged from large election authorities like Dallas County, Texas (with 1.29 million registered voters) to small jurisdictions like the city of Houghton, Michigan (home to 3,056 registered voters). All told, we had 102 election officials representing 34 county, 8 municipal, and 3 state offices. Together, these officials administer elections for over 17 million voters.
And we’ve kicked 2018 off with another online training opportunity for election officials.
Is your election office looking for new training this year? You can register now for affordable online courses throughout February, including 2 new courses for 2018 -- Messages that Motivate Voters and Poll Worker Management Best Practices.
Quantifying the state of representation
In October, CTCL’s Civic Data team released an update to our Reflective Democracy dataset in partnership with Womens Donor Network. 2017 marked our third update to this dataset that tracks the race and gender of elected officials and candidates. This dataset helps organizations and constituents understand what their government looks like, and who is (and is not) represented.
Our 2017 data release was featured in Cosmopolitan’s Run for Office package as well as in the Washington Post. And for the first time, the dataset not only included all federal, state, and county officeholders and candidates, but also included city-level officials and candidates.
Providing ongoing election support
Elections don’t only happen in even years. In fall 2017, CTCL’s Ballot Information Project was in full-swing covering statewide elections in New Jersey and Virginia, as well as every election in cities with a population over 130,000 people.
With a smaller volume of data to collect, our Civic Data Team was able to use the odd-year election as an opportunity to develop and refine our internal systems while also providing data to partners including FirstVote North Carolina, We Vote, and Rock the Vote.
We were delighted that thousands of voters were able to learn what was on their ballot through tools powered by our data. And are looking forward to using our new internal systems to grow our 2018 data offerings.
Building tools for election officials
In addition to providing professional development opportunities for election officials, CTCL’s Government Services team helps election officials use free and low-cost tools to promote civic engagement and make voting easier. The Election Toolkit is an online home for a variety of resources that meet this need.
In partnership with software developer Mark Pelczarski, and with support from the MIT Election Data and Science Lab, we collected data in November 2017 that will power a new tool in the Election Toolkit: the voting time estimator. The voting time estimator will help election officials understand how long it will take a voter to cast a ballot based on the number and types of races and issues that are on the ballot. This type of data will allow election officials to make resource allocation decisions to minimize voter wait times at polling places.
Accurate estimations require lots of quality data. To refine voting time estimations we recruited 8 jurisdictions to measure the time voters spent with a variety of different ballot styles in November 2017. Overall, we gathered 4,816 voting times from 45 polling places. This data, along with others from past elections, will power this new tool which is scheduled to be added to the Toolkit is Spring 2018.
Growing our team
At CTCL our small but mighty team is getting less small and more mighty. In 2017 we added three new positions.
In January, Victoria Nguyen joined our team as our Government Services outreach associate. Victoria has developed beautiful digital and print content to spread the word about our Government Services work and is the lead on our training outreach strategy.
We welcomed Henry Chan as our Civic Data research associate in August of 2017. Henry became a full-time staff member after nearly a year as a research fellow on the Civic Data team. Henry keeps our Governance Project dataset fresh year-round and will be leading our 2018 Ballot Information Project collection efforts.
And in January 2018 Noma Thayer joined our team as operations manager. Noma will be the lead on CTCL internal operations, making sure that we run like a well-oiled machine.
This growth was made possible in part by renewed general operating support in 2017 from both the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Democracy Fund. Each foundation committed up to $500,000 over two years.
Keeping up the momentum in 2018
Our team has hit the ground running in 2018. From our third annual ballot data convening to our February online training series, we’re already delivering 2018 content to modernize how local government and communities interact.
And we have a lot in store. Stay tuned for new trainings for election officials on topics including cybersecurity and best practices for automatic voter registration implementation. And be on the lookout for new data releases, including candidate and referenda information all the way down to the special district level this fall.
Thank you for your continued support!