Realigning ElectionTools.org to Better Meet the Needs of Election Officials

When we at the Center for Technology and Civic Life launched ElectionTools.org in June 2016, we stated our goals for the resource as “advancing the important work of election officials” and “helping to improve the voter experience nationwide.”

Three years later, we’re still committed to those goals, and we’re making ElectionTools.org evolve so that it’s better positioned to fulfill them.

Ahead of the 2020 General Election, we’re realigning our collection of tools to better meet the needs of our audience. Here’s why we’re making these changes and what you can expect to see as ElectionTools.org develops.

Why we’re doing this

For any project to progress, it needs maintenance and a continued reinvestment of resources. It needs not just growth, but smart growth, and that means growth that’s grounded in data. For that reason, we conducted an impact measurement study on ElectionTools.org in the spring of 2019.

The study focused on one central objective: understanding our users’ outcomes and then identifying the extent to which they match up with CTCL’s goals.

What we discovered from the impact evaluation is that while our audience of election officials values the resources on ElectionTools.org, some of the tools have a better track record of success than others. In addition, we saw evidence to suggest that taking a more hands-on, supportive approach with potential users could help them overcome challenges and adopt the tools they’d like to use.

As we weigh findings from the impact study, we’re also following developments in the field of election administration. As the field changes, so do our audience’s priorities, and that means that tools selected in 2016 may not reflect the most pressing needs of officials in 2019 and 2020.

For all these reasons, ElectionTools.org is changing.

What’s changing

The most visible change you’ll notice on ElectionTools.org is that we’re reducing the number of tools. To bring greater focus to the collection and set up our audience for success, we have removed about half of the tools.

How did we choose which tools to remove? Each has its own story, but in general, we’re removing tools that were overly complicated, tools whose target audience isn’t election officials, and tools whose content is available elsewhere. With fewer tools, we have greater confidence that our audience will find resources that address their needs and that are easy to adopt.

The new ElectionTools.org

The new ElectionTools.org

While we’re reducing the number of tools, we’re working to boost user support for the ones that remain. Because we know our audience is full of busy people with a variety of skill levels, we will be holding free, public webinars to introduce the tools, demonstrate how they work, and offer tips to use them for the greatest impact.

Alongside CTCL staff, the webinars will feature the tool developers and election officials who want to share their experiences with others.

We hope the webinars will promote adoption of the tools. After the live webinars, video recordings will be added to the tool pages as an additional asset. We’ve already added one such webinar for our RFP How-to Guide for Election Officials.

We’re also simplifying our brand. We’re discontinuing the use of the name “Election Toolkit” and are instead presenting the web address as the name of the resource: ElectionTools.org.

Behind the scenes, we are developing criteria to guide the tool selection process in the future. This will help ensure that our future tools are easy to use, free, noncommercial, scalable, and focus on election officials as their audience. We also see value in tools that complement other CTCL programs, such as our training courses.

What’s staying the same

Since its beginning, ElectionTools.org has been a resource developed by, with, and for election officials. That won’t change.

Plus, we remain committed to providing our audience with tools they can use regardless of their budget, skill level, and ability. We want nothing to hold our users back from implementing a change in their office.

We’ll also continue to collect stories of election officials who are using the tools, sharing their experiences with others who may benefit. If you’ve used a tool, we’d love to tell your story.

As we move forward, we hope you’ll keep up with what’s happening at ElectionTools.org. Being signed up for CTCL’s ELECTricity newsletter is the best way to keep up to date.

If you have questions, comments, or ideas to contribute to our realignment work, please feel free to send us an email.

Thanks to all the election officials who have used this collection of tools and participated in the research. We’re excited to roll out changes to make this a better resource for you!