TurboVote: expanding modern voting to all Americans

Communities / Article

Knight supports Turbovote to help modernize the voting experience. The following guest blog post is written by Seth FlaxmanTurboVote‘s executive director.

It was just over a year ago, in February of 2012, that Knight approved our first grant and introduced me to President Padrón at Miami Dade College, a great institution that would become TurboVote’s second college partner. It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come since then. In less than a year we picked up nearly 90 partners nationwide (with many thanks to the program directors in the Knight Resident Communities who helped), reached over 190,000 individual voters, had our work covered in the New York Times, Mashable, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and 102 other news stories (81 in college publications), and brought in $319,000 of earned revenue, approximately 30 percent of TurboVote’s budget.

Now, because of a new three-year $1 million grant from Knight we can reach out to hundreds of additional colleges partners while also starting to serve government, the first step toward modernizing voting for all Americans. Equally important, by 2015 we’ll have signed up enough new partners that we’ll be financially sustainable—entirely supported by the colleges, nonprofits and local governments that cover the costs associated with serving their communities.

Working with colleges and nonprofit organizations is our core. With the continued backing of such an awesome foundation, we can expand our work to help nonprofits and colleges use technology to engage their communities in voting. But to truly modernize the voting experience for all Americans, it is imperative that we partner with governments and build technology that will empower the public servants doing the hard work of actually running elections. We have to engage the Leslie Knopes out there.

(Okay, so Leslie Knope is actually a city councilwoman. But you get the idea.)

That’s why, this year, we’re expanding our work. We are creating new initiatives expressly for local election administrators along with service design firm Reboot. Together we’re researching exactly how election administration works on the ground so we can build new features for TurboVote and help local government save money if they offer TurboVote to everyone in their district.

And while we await Reboot’s findings on what local election administrators need, we’re gearing up to start building these new services. If you know any developers we should recruit to join this effort, let us know!

Knight’s philosophy is that our democracy will be strongest when communities across the country are both engaged and informed. It’s a strong guiding principle and Knight is applying it to the world in innovative ways. This investment in TurboVote is one of many transforming the Open Gov movement—an effort to make our democracy more representative by making government more transparent and participatory. TurboVote is part of that push—we’re making the process for choosing our leaders as transparent and participatory as possible. And we’re honored to be in great company with Code for America, GovLab, Local Data, Textizen, Recovers.org (I’m not going to name everyone, because Knight is breathing a lot of life into Open Gov).

By Seth Flaxman, executive director, TurboVote

Related: “Can TurboVote ‘Disrupt’ Voter Registration? Knight Gives $1M to Find Out” by Nick Judd on TechPresident.com