TurboVote & e.thePeople Team Up On Digital Voting Guide
Informed Voting from Start to Finish, a collaboration between TurboVote, e.thePeople, and the Center for Civic Design, was one of the winning projects of the Knight News Challenge today.
Two organizations dedicated to voter education are teaming up to create a comprehensive voter guide that will include registration information, a polling place locator, election reminders, and candidate comparisons. Informed Voting from Start to Finish will be led by e.thePeople, a nonprofit that makes software that media organizations and civic groups like the League of Women Voters use to create voter guides for local and national elections. As one of the Knight News Challenge winners announced today, Informed Voting will receive $200,000 from the Knight Foundation.
The theme of this Knight News Challenge was elections, and applicants were prompted to propose a solution to the question, “How might we better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during, and after elections?”
E.thePeople is partnering with Democracy Works to bring election guides to more than 268,000 current TurboVote users who have signed up to receive voter registration forms or absentee ballots by mail, election reminders, or a combination of the three. (TurboVote received $1 million in funding support from the Knight Foundation in 2013.) A third partner, the Center for Civic Design, will lead the research component of the project, looking into which messages and tactics resonate most with users.
“We’re marrying resources,” says Alex Quinn, executive director of e.thePeople. “If you sign up for TurboVote and you get the voting reminder then you also get a link to the local voter guide…we kind of pick up where TurboVote leaves off.”
Brandon Naylor, Democracy Works’ director of communications, tells Civicist that “the idea of nonprofits partnering up to accomplish a common goal” is still pretty unusual. “We’re trying to sort of pave new territory here.”
E.thePeople is an online organization from a simpler time; it was started in 1999, back when affixing an “e” to the front of a word or phrase was still a thing. (Andrew Rasiej, the co-founder of Civic Hall and publisher of Civicist, was an early advisor.) TurboVote launched more than a decade later and, as Alex Quinn points out, has a “more direct relationship to individuals in the delivery of its services.” It will be interesting to see what they can accomplish in tandem.
Perhaps most significant is the potential for expanding the reach of both e.thePeople and TurboVote. As already noted, through this project more than a quarter million TurboVote users will be prompted to check out a voter guide powered by e.thePeople. On the other hand, e.thePeople’s voter guides had 3.3 million visitors in 2012 and they have estimated they will see 6 million visitors in 2016; if even a fraction of visitors to sign up for TurboVote, that would dramatically increase that organization’s user base.
They will also be sharing networks—e.thePeople is used by more than 150 media and civil society organizations, and Democracy Works partners with a lot of colleges. Quinn is very excited by the potential for cross-collaboration: “What will also happen by the nature of the partnership is that we’ll be able to introduce our partners to what TurboVote does and vice versa.”
When asked what made e.thePeople right for tackling the problem of voter education, Chris Barr, director of media innovation at the Knight Foundation, said, “They just have a pretty good history of doing this.”
Other winning Knight News Challenge projects include an Associated Press effort to find the “exit poll of the future”; a political ad tracker by the Internet Archive; a get-out-the-vote initiative targeting barbers in black communities; and a toolkit election officials can use to engage local communities.