The 2017 TurboVote Summer Associates have arrived!

Our summer associates are finally here! We’re so glad to have with us five driven students eager to make voting an easy, natural part of young people’s lives. They’ve already been working nonstop on a wide variety of projects to aid TurboVote implementation and development on your campus. Though they come to us from schools across the country, including Duke University, the University of Chicago, Texas State University, Harvard University, and the University of Kansas, their shared passion for civic engagement and innovation has drawn them to the Democracy Works team in Brooklyn. We’ve asked our associates to share more about themselves below, so you can get to know who they are!

The 2017 TurboVote Summer Associates, from left to right: Eloise, Prince, Michelle, Alex, and Brian.

The 2017 TurboVote Summer Associates, from left to right: Eloise, Prince, Michelle, Alex, and Brian.

Eloise Kaehny
Eloise is a rising junior at Harvard University, where she is majoring in social studies with a focus on environmental justice and Spanish language. On campus, she is a member of both a Harvard campaign committee and the Institute of Politics National Campaign civic engagement group (NAC). Eloise's excitement towards useful civic innovation and improved political engagement brought her to Democracy Works. She enjoys watching Cambridge sunsets and finding local concerts in her free time, and is grateful to be back in her native New York for the summer. 
 
Alex Murray
Alex is a rising sophomore at the University of Kansas, where he is majoring in finance with a minor in environmental science. He works at the Dole Institute of Politics, serves on his school’s finance committee, and participates in a sustainability organization he founded in 2016. Alex’s interest in increasing civic engagement and modernizing voting process lead him to Democracy Works and the TurboVote Summer Associate team. When he escapes from the big city, Alex can be found doing photography, making music, or camping - preferably, combining all three. 
 
Brian Park
Brian is a rising junior at Duke University, where he is pursuing a degree in political science and a minor in computer science. He has previously worked on a campaign in North Carolina and is an active brother of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. After learning more about the state of American democracy and its fundamental problems, Brian decided to spend his summer at Democracy Works to contribute to a solution. In his free time, Brian enjoys playing soccer (his favorite team is Real Madrid) and watching food documentaries on Netflix. 
 
Michelle Shim
Michelle Shim is currently a rising second year at the University of Chicago, where she is pursuing a double major in economics and political science. At college, Michelle is involved in the Fellows Program at the Institute of Politics, competes on the moot court team, and is a research assistant for the Midwestern Longitudinal Study of Asian American Families. Her passion for socioeconomic issues and public policy research led her to the TurboVote team this summer. She has attended 13 different schools in the U.K., South Korea, New Jersey, California, and Georgia, and is constantly baking, nibbling on supposedly healthy dark chocolate, and reading the works of Jane Austen.
 
Prince Winbush
Prince Winbush is a rising sophomore at Texas State University, where he is pursuing a degree in mass communications with a concentration in public relations and two minors in political communication and music management. Prince recently finished his stint at Lone Star College, where he was president of a Lone Star political club and Vice President of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance. Prince is a native of Cardiff, Wales, but spent his teenage years in Chicago and now calls Texas home. He serves on his local party county committee as well as on the Texas state party board. In his free time, you can find Prince at a concert, searching the web for new artists, or scoping out the latest stories coming out of D.C. or his state capitol, Austin, T.X.

All of us at Democracy Works are looking forward to a full summer with this great group! If you're interested in applying for next year, be sure to check our Careers page ocacassionally for listings.

JOB: Research Associate, Democracy Works

Updated June 14, 2017.

Location: Brooklyn, NY (though we’ll consider remote-in-the-US arrangements for the perfect candidate)
Target Start Date: August 1, 2017
Salary Range: $48,000 - $53,000 per year (depending on experience)
Benefits: Vision, dental, & medical insurance; 403(b) retirement savings plan; generous vacation policy; paid parental leave; long-term disability; employee assistance program
Level: Entry
 
At Democracy Works, we believe voting should fit the way we live. To that end, we build technology for both voters and election administrators that simplifies the process and ensures that no voter should ever have to miss an election.
 
TurboVote, our first service, helps voters register, stay registered, and cast a ballot in every election, from municipal to national. TurboVote signed up its millionth voter in 2016 by building the largest college and corporate coalition in the country, including 194 campuses, companies like Starbucks, Univision, Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and dozens more.  We also helped (basically) everyone find their polling place through the Voting Information Project. Its data had 123 million impressions in 2016, and over 11 million voters looked up where to vote on GetToThePolls.com. To scale our impact and reach every voter, we’re establishing an Election Technology Cooperative to provide affordable, voter-centered technology to election administrators. And Ballot Scout helps election administrators track absentee ballots through the mail, providing transparency in the vote-by-mail process and making it easier to follow up when things go awry.
 
Streamlining democracy requires quite a bit of knowledge: what form you use to register to vote in Wyoming, to whom you mail your absentee ballot application in Maine, and whether there’s an election taking place in Virginia RIGHT NOW. (There is!) We’re seeking a researcher to help us know as much as possible about elections, and use that knowledge to inform our software design, operations, and customer service for more than 1 million voters across 50 states.
 
You’ll:

  • Learn the ins-and-outs of election rules across 50 states, and apply that big-picture understanding to the smallest details of how we serve individual voters
  • Track when every election is happening, using your wits, charm, and deft Google Alert-wrangling skills (plus the occasional temp staffer)
  • Solve problems, answer questions, and ensure that even our most confused voter gets the information they need
  • Break things, hunt bugs, and help prioritize new features for our developer team 

You are:

  • (Almost frighteningly) inquisitive
  • Exceptionally organized, able to prioritize multiple projects simultaneously, and detail-oriented
  • Empathetic and creative in your pursuit of customer service
  • Capable of breaking down large projects into bite-sized chunks
  • Up for tirelessly pursuing obscure election facts
  • Conversational, preferably fluent, in Spanish 

You have experience:

  • Managing complex projects and keeping track of details
  • Providing customer support or hands-on services
  • Writing clear, detailed reports on complicated (and often technical) topics 
  • Wrangling data or dabbling in Excel formulas/Python/Ruby/R (that left you eager to learn more)

To apply, send a resume and brief, informal introduction to Magda and Katy at work@democracy.works with the subject “Will research for democracy.” From there, we’ll send you a short practical exercise designed to test some of your problem-solving skills, which we’ll anonymize and then evaluate in a blind review. Candidates with strong responses to the practical exercise will go through interview rounds (up to three) with different members of our team who interact closely with this position. We’ll ask for references from our top finalist(s), then make an offer.
 
Democracy Works is committed to diversity and inclusion in everything we do and aspires to have a team that's representative of the voters we serve. When hiring, we practice proactive outreach to top talent that’s underrepresented in our sector (including Latino, Black, AAPI, and Indigenous candidates). We conduct an anonymized skills evaluation, to reduce implicit bias and resume-dependency in our process. We're a woman- and gay-founded startup, and promote an inclusive culture that stands against racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism (to name a few). To be explicit, we strongly encourage applicants of all races, ethnicities, political party associations, religions (or lack thereof), national origins, sexual orientations, genders, sexes, ages, abilities, and branches of military service. Feel free to contact work@democracy.works if you have any questions about our commitment to inclusion or about general hiring practices. Democracy Works posts all current career opportunities at democracy.works/careers.

Democracy Works welcomes Amy Cohen to Government Services team

Democracy Works has added veteran election expert Amy Cohen to our Government Services team. As the Director of Government Outreach, Amy will work primarily with election officials and administrators to find ways technology can make their jobs easier, including the adoption of new tools or simply finding different ways to use already existing platforms, such as social media.
 
Amy joins us with significant experience in the election space. She spent four years with the Pew Charitable Trusts, where she managed the Voting Information Project (VIP), guided national research projects, and forged relationships throughout the corporate and nonprofit sector. Most recently, she co-founded and served as the Director of Operations for the Center for Election Innovation & Research (CEIR), which works to improve the security of elections and increase efficiencies in election administration for both administrators and voters. 
 
As the Government Services team expands its reach, Amy will also help coordinate the Election Technology Cooperative, build and strengthen relationships with state and local election officials, and encourage adoption of online voter registration APIs. We at Democracy Works are thrilled to have Amy as a part of our team and look forward to seeing where her efforts lead to make voting fit the way we live!
 

JOB: Data Associate, Voting Information Project (VIP)

UPDATE: As of June 19, 2017, we are no longer accepting applications for this position. Thank you for your interest!

Location: Preferably Brooklyn, N.Y.; Remote applicants within the U.S. welcome.
Target Start Date: July 10, 2017
Salary Range: $60,000 to $80,000 per year (depending on location and experience)
Benefits: Vision, dental, & medical insurance; 403(b) retirement savings plan; generous vacation policy; long-term disability; employee assistance program

At Democracy Works, we believe voting should fit the way we live. To that end, we build technology for both voters and election administrators that simplifies the process and ensures that no voter should ever have to miss an election.

The Voting Information Project (VIP) coordinates with state election offices to publish nationally-standardized information about where and how to vote—data that powers everything from Google’s polling place search to our own text message and email reminders to TurboVote users. The Data Associate will be a part of the VIP team, assisting with collecting, parsing, and assessing a nation’s worth of election data.

(Our other projects include TurboVote, which tracks a voter’s elections. We provide all the materials and information they need to get registered, stay registered, and cast a ballot in every election, from municipal to national—and we’ll even mail forms with an addressed, stamped envelope for the local election office. Ballot Scout helps local election administrators track absentee ballots as they travel through the mail, providing transparency in the vote-by-mail process and making it easier to follow up when things go awry.)

As the data associate for VIP, you’ll:

  • Contribute to a dataset that has served millions (and hundreds of millions) of voters since 2008
  • Build and maintain parsers, quality assurance checks, and data management scripts
  • Collaborate with the Democracy Works developer team and Google engineers
  • Communicate with county and state election officials about the availability, quality, and status of their data.

You are:

  • Obsessively attentive to detail, having the ability to resolve issues within complex data sets
  • Creative, in a way that recognizes the artistry in a well-wrought script parser
  • Comfortable translating between jargon and vernacular
  • Passionate about civic tech and open data
  • Happiest working with a team
  • Interested in both the macro and micro views of any project

You (hopefully) have experience:

  • Handling large, complex datasets using some combination of data scripting (Python, SQL, R, others)
  • In an agile development environment
  • In politics, government, or non-profits
  • On highly collaborative teams
  • Providing customer support, or working with external partners

Salary is competitive and commensurate with education and experience. Democracy Works also offers a benefits package including health insurance, vacation, and a 403(b) retirement plan. We’re based in Brooklyn, N.Y. with remote employees across the United States, and we hope you’ll want to work from our Brooklyn office, though we’ll consider remote arrangements for the right candidate.

To apply, send a resume and brief, informal introduction to Franklin and Maria at work@democracy.works with the subject “Will data for democracy.”

Democracy Works is committed to diversity and inclusion in everything we do and aspires to have a team which is representative of the voters we serve. When hiring, we practice proactive outreach to top talent that’s underrepresented in our sector (including Latinx, Black, AAPI, and Indigenous candidates), and we offer every candidate an anonymized skills evaluation, to reduce implicit bias and resume-dependency in our process. We're a woman- and gay-founded startup, and promote an inclusive culture that stands against racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism (to name a few). To be explicit, we strongly encourage applicants of all races, ethnicities, political party associations, religions (or lack thereof), national origins, sexual orientations, genders, sexes, ages, abilities, and branches of military service. Feel free to contact work@democracy.works if you have any questions about our commitment to inclusion or about general hiring practices. Democracy Works posts all current career opportunities at democracy.works/careers.

There ARE elections in 2017!

By Anjelica Smith

The mad rush of gearing up for the 2016 presidential election is in our rear view, yet somehow it doesn’t seem any less busy! For starters, there are a number of important elections happening in 2017; Virginians and New Jerseyans will have the opportunity to elect a governor, there are a slew of special elections in North Carolina and elsewhere, and voters across the country are making their voices heard about public education in their communities. 

In my conversations with TurboVote implementers across more than 40 states, and while meeting civic engagement and student life professionals at the IMPACT Conference, the Eastern Region Campus Compact Conference, and the Gulf South Summit on Service Learning and Civic-Engagement through Higher Education, one theme is pervasive: How do we keep up the momentum and further engage student voters with the democratic process? 

Of course, this is when I love to tell the Harvard story. In the fall of 2016, Harvard University placed TurboVote within their mandatory online check-in process completed by all undergraduate students before the start of classes. During this process, which is powered by Oracle PeopleSoft Campus Solutions, students click through a number of screens to complete such tasks as updating their emergency contact information. One of these screens presented students with the option of signing up for TurboVote. All undergraduates were given the opportunity to take steps to register to vote, request an absentee ballot, and sign up for text/email notifications about upcoming elections. Nearly 1,400 students, about one-fourth of Harvard undergraduates, chose to do so. 

Ensuring all students have the opportunity to get connected with the information and materials they need to be lifelong voters is a lofty goal. It’s also an attainable reality when collaborators across campus come together to prioritize the civic duty of voting, like Harvard did. One way to spend your time this spring is to begin to identify online and in-person processes that all students or a bloc (i.e. first-year) of students pass through and explore how voter registration might be thrown in the mix. We learned through our research on integrating voter registration into campus web infrastructure that starting the conversation early with the registrar’s office, campus IT professionals, and faculty is the key to pulling off a TurboVote integration like Harvard. 

I’ve also been encouraged to learn about substantive programming and ongoing voter engagement initiatives on a number of campuses. In February, DePauw University organized a nonpartisan Civic Action Day. Organizers set up tables in the student union during the university’s dedicated lunch hour. Handouts on the views of elected officials  were distributed and laptops were available to look up legislative office phone numbers, as well as additional information. There were also prepaid postcards ready to be written on and sent. Students were encouraged to call and write their representatives during this drop-in event and staff were available to guide them through the process and answer questions. The men’s swim team coach also stopped by. He happens to be a city council member and was able to offer a perspective on the importance of staying involved locally. 

Local elections in the spring also provide a great opportunity to keep voter engagement salient. In Normal, IL, Illinois State University is gearing up for a mayoral and town council race on April 4. On-campus implementers worked to ensure their TurboVote link returned to a prominent location within their student portal during a dedicated three-week period. They are also messaging around important differences between the presidential election and this local election, namely revised early voting locations, so students know where to vote. 

In Missouri, Washington University in St. Louis organized a series of events early in the spring semester as part of their Politics 365 initiative. On April 4, a new mayor will be elected for the first time in 16 years and school board members will be elected, too. The Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement sponsored a bus for students to travel for free to a mayoral candidate forum. The Gephardt Institute also organized, “What’s at Stake in the St. Louis City Election,” a panel discussion and reception on economic opportunity, public and neighborhood safety, and public education in St. Louis. WashU advertises these events, in addition to registration deadlines and election dates, on an easily distributable one-pager. 

Are you doing something exciting to keep students democratically engaged in 2017? Let us know by emailing partnerships@turbovote.org and we would love to profile your efforts!

TurboVote Tech Update

By Magda Kura

Hi there! I’m Magda, the product director of TurboVote, and I wanted to share some exciting TurboVote technology news with you. 

The TurboVote team started the year strong with a series of in-person usability studies in Philadelphia, New York, and San Rafael. Usability testing is employed in user-centric design to see how one might interact with a website. In general, participants described the TurboVote website as “straightforward,” “concise,” and “simple.” We also learned that users don’t mind receiving election information by email or text, even if the messages are frequent. Shoutout to St. Joseph’s College - Brooklyn, Dominican University of California, and People’s Emergency Center for helping us make this happen!  

We are committed to serving all elections from local to national levels, which means thousands of voters will be equipped with the information they need to participate in our democratic process. That is why we’re always trying to make TurboVote better. Here’s what we launched in the first quarter of 2017:

What’s new?

  • A new dashboard! Now, you can celebrate your voter engagement success with a snapshot of real-time data every time you log in to your Admin Console. We know how valuable this dashboard is to our partners, which is why it’s a top priority.
The new Admin Console!

The new Admin Console!

Hovering over a question mark now produces helpful popups.

Hovering over a question mark now produces helpful popups.

  • We’re now supporting final signup page customizations. Our TurboVote 2.0 platform offers many customizations, allowing you to incorporate your organization’s brand and voice into your voter engagement initiative.
Global Citizen's customized done page.

Global Citizen's customized done page.

Our dedicated engineering team is also working to make our technology faster, and easier to maintain and scale. Their work will not always be visible to you, but it will make our platform better, smoother, and more reliable for years to come. 

What’s improved?

  • We’ve improved export efficiency. In the past, you might see your export loading…and...it...would...take...a while to load. That was annoying, so we fixed it. To help you interpret the data, we also added the Partner Export Key for download within the export tab of the Admin Console.
  • We cleaned up how TurboVote displays deadlines for voters who have multiple upcoming elections. We know our old handling was confusing for some voters in California specifically.

So, what’s next?
Among other exciting things, the TurboVote team is committed to building the campus address lookup tool, which will allow our implementers in higher education to create, update, and delete on-campus housing options from within the Admin Console. That way, when students wish to register to vote using an on-campus address, they will be able to select their housing option from a dropdown menu and input the address you saved within the Console, leading to less mistakes and smoother processing at the clerk’s office!

Have feedback or want to see your suggestion on this list? Send us a note to info@turbovote.org.

You're Invited

By Kathryn Peters

A few weeks ago, a new civic nonprofit asked me if I’d come talk about problem-solving through technology. So one early Tuesday morning, I found myself in drizzly Chicago, talking about the importance of invitation and the challenge of welcoming would-be voters into American democracy.

I’m sure many of you have seen variations on this chart: this is how American adults voted. It's not even close: the plurality of eligible voters just... didn't.

It's true, this election brought out more alienation and disapproval than usual. And we might see that more people opted out for those reasons. But after every federal election, the Census bureau polls non-voters, and the answers from previous cycles are remarkably consistent: some people don't care, and others hate the system, but a majority say they meant to vote, but got caught up in work, or missed a registration deadline, or had transportation problems. In short, the process didn't work for them.

I probably don't need to tell you this, but presidential elections are the high point for participation. In midterm elections, state elections, and local elections, turnout drops even lower. As a result, when we talk about democracy in America, we’re talking about only part of America. And we know democracy works better when more people participate. The problems we see in our government stem from the fact that we aren’t all getting represented.

How do we get more people involved? Through TurboVote, Democracy Works helps voters navigate the process of tracking elections, staying registered, and casting their ballots. We reach voters mostly through colleges, universities, and non-profit organizations, building on their relationships with members and students.

In 2015, I conducted a series of user interviews to learn how people approach registering to vote. My questions were all about that process — were you online? On paper? At the DMV? And yet my notes surprised me — the answers were all about people. “My dad sat me down on my 18th birthday.” “My high school guidance counselor passed out forms.” “I saw a canvasser on campus, and he looked sad, so I went over to register and cheer him up.” (True story).

The more I listened, the more I realized that the act of invitation mattered a great deal to these voters, and that elections can feel exclusive and unfamiliar to first-time voters.

So last year, Democracy Works brought together a coalition of major corporations and non-profits around a goal of restoring participation to new highs, with a 2016 focus on trying to reach more people through as many different channels as possible, and inviting them into our democracy. 

We tried a lot of different things:

AppNexus put voter-registration reminders across its entire network. Want to Skype? Get invited to vote.

BuzzFeed ran a PSA with President Obama. Looking for a short Internet distraction? Get invited to vote.

Facebook posted news feed reminders and push notifications about voter registration, and information about early voting, and what’s on the ballot, and Election Day reminders, AND brought peer pressure to bear. Want to know what your friends are up to? Get invited to vote – and see which of them have told Facebook they're voters, too.

Snapchat went big, too. You think you've escaped the news, but then there's The Rock, telling you to vote. Or Jared Leto. Apparently people are intimidated when Jared Leto asks them to do things.

Just need your morning coffee? Starbucks is going to... invite you to vote.

But most people's strongest relationships aren't with #BRANDS (sorry, brands!). TurboVote started out on campus at colleges and universities, and their ability to connect with their students and form good civic habits are still unrivaled. So what happens if companies also think about how to connect with their employees?

Or, what about when a media company like Univision not only invites its readers and viewers in, but provides continuous, deep-dive content not just on the political horse race, but the full election process? And plasters this coverage with a constant, recurring invitation to join in and vote?

univision_home_page.png

What happens when Chance the Rapper not only invites his listeners to vote, but actually throws them a concert before going to cast his vote?

"We're gonna have a very peaceful, but very lit parade"

Inviting people, it turns out, is a start. Offering a sincere welcome, one that’s rich and personal, clearly resonates more deeply yet. 

Seeking out that missing electorate and inviting them in can work, but it's only the start. From there, we still have to make sure people have the information to follow through. We have to find their motivation, keep it burning. We can't just thank them and walk away them after they register, or even after Election Day.

That commitment to participation, year in and year out, is why Democracy Works is now tracking thousands of special, state, and local 2017 elections and sending out notifications about them to our million-plus TurboVote users, and are opening up our datasets of election dates, election administrators, and much much more, to build from a quadrennial party to a perpetual neighborhood affair, and to make sure that everyone receives a personalized, custom request to come in and take part.

(If you’d like to talk about ways to incorporate an invitation to voting into your community, company, or application, don’t hesitate to contact us!)

Wrap-Up: 2017 IMPACT Conference, Washington University in St. Louis

By Anjelica Smith

Last week, Emily and I traveled to St. Louis to enjoy 70 degree weather and the IMPACT Conference at Washington University in St. Louis. IMPACT provides us with an exciting opportunity to connect with students and staff from colleges and universities from around the country at this annual convening on civic engagement. As the home for TurboVote at WashU, Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement staff and students secured 17 TurboVote leaderboard appearances, so we were also excited to be able to congratulate them for their great work in person and enjoy their session about Politics 365. 

At our Saturday morning session, No such thing as an "off-year:" Ensuring students are ready to vote in all elections, we dug deep into the (unfortunate) drop in turnout during local elections and discussed strategies for keeping students engaged. We’re so grateful we were able to hear campus perspectives from Isabella Braga and Frances Ashbury of the Rollins College Democracy Project and Cara Johnson of the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement at WashU. Naturally, we played our favorite game, Votes & Ballots. Session attendees worked together as part of either the Big State University Bears or the Pawnee Community College Owls to make a voter engagement plan that worked for their campus and community (with limited time and resources, of course). 

It was great to visit with members of the TurboVote community. A shout out to folks from DePauw University, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, St. Joseph’s College-New York, and Case Western Reserve University, for saying hello and chatting about voting with us. We connected with some wonderful future partners, too. I’m glad to report that our TurboVote chip clips and buttons were a hit. 

The IMPACT conference offered enriching content around every corner! We enjoyed hearing keynote remarks from former U.S. congressman Richard Gephardt, Sam Giacobozzi, and Asam Ahmad and attended a panel discussion on getting engaged post-2016 election. St. Louis offered us many food options, and we were happy to experience Blueberry Hill, Pi Pizzeria, and Retreat Gastropub. Did I mention we saw the world’s biggest chess piece, too? 

I’m happy to report it was a great weekend filled with many members from the TurboVote family and a fantastic time was had by all. We look forward to seeing fellow IMPACT’ers in Dayton, Ohio in 2018! 

JOB: Software Developer, Democracy Works

NOTE: As of March 9, 2017, we are no longer accepting applications for this position.

Location: Preferably Brooklyn, NY; Denver, CO; or remote for the right candidate
Target Start Date: April 3, 2017

Salary Range: $85,000 to $128,000 (depending on location and skill level)
Benefits: Vision, dental, and medical insurance; 403(b) retirement savings plan; generous vacation policy

At Democracy Works, we believe voting should fit the way we live. To that end, we build technology for both voters and election administrators that simplifies the process and ensures that no voter should ever have to miss an election.

TurboVote, our first service, helps voters register, stay registered, and cast a ballot in every election, from municipal to national. TurboVote signed up its millionth voter in 2016 by building the largest college and corporate coalition in the country, including 194 campuses, companies like Starbucks, Univision, Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and dozens more.  We also helped (basically) everyone find their polling place through the Voting Information Project. Its data had 123 million impressions in 2016, and over 11 million voters looked up where to vote on GetToThePolls.com. To scale our impact and reach every voter, we’re establishing an Election Technology Cooperative to provide affordable, voter-centered technology to election administrators. And Ballot Scout helps election administrators track absentee ballots through the mail, providing transparency in the vote-by-mail process and making it easier to follow up when things go awry.

These products are the work of our 8-person developer team. Most of our development involves writing microservices in Clojure running in Docker containers and communicating over RabbitMQ, web clients in ClojureScript, and data stored in Datomic. We also have projects that use JavaScript, Node, jQuery, React, Ruby, Rails, Python, Golang, and PostgreSQL. We hope you have experience with some of these technologies and are excited to get experience with the rest.

As a software engineer, you’ll:

  • Pair program
  • Collaborate with product managers
  • Make sure your work delivers value to users
  • Rotate roles and projects on our team so that you get a variety of experience and working relationships, making sure you can bring your unique strengths to as wide a swath of our work as possible

You are:

  • An experienced software developer (some Clojure experience is a plus, but it's not a deal-breaker if you don't have any) who is excited to dive into these projects
  • Passionate about our mission and strategy
  • Collaborative, both within the dev team and across the organization
  • Organized and detail-oriented
  • Rigorous
  • Enthusiastic about mentoring and learning from others of various experience levels

To apply, send a resume and brief introduction to Wes and Quinn at work@democracy.works with the subject “Will code for democracy.”

Democracy Works is committed to diversity and inclusion in everything we do and aspires to have a team which is representative of the voters we serve. When hiring, we practice proactive outreach to top talent that’s underrepresented in our sector (including Latinx, Black, AAPI, and Indigenous candidates), and we offer every candidate an anonymized skills evaluation, to reduce implicit bias and resume-dependency in our process. We're a woman- and gay-founded startup, and promote an inclusive culture that stands against racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism (to name a few). To be explicit, we strongly encourage applicants of all races, ethnicities, political party associations, religions (or lack thereof), national origins, sexual orientations, genders, sexes, ages, abilities, and branches of military service. Feel free to contact work@democracy.works if you have any questions about our commitment to inclusion or about general hiring practices.

JOB: Development Director, Democracy Works

NOTE: As of March 30, 2017, the application process for this position has re-opened and we are accepting applications.

Location: Brooklyn, NY
Application Deadline: April 11, 2017
Salary Range: Salary commensurate with experience
Benefits: Vision, dental, & medical insurance; 403(b) retirement savings plan; generous vacation policy; long-term disability; employee assistance program
Position Level: Senior

Categories:  Major gifts, corporate and foundation relations, prospect research, sales and marketing, special events
 
Position Overview:  Democracy Works seeks a strong, high-energy, organized senior development officer with a creative, entrepreneurial spirit to attract, cultivate and manage support for this dynamic, fast-paced organization.
 
The ideal candidate will be a self-starter with excellent interpersonal, written and verbal communication skills. They will be dedicated, well organized, detail-oriented, and excited about working in a rapidly growing non-profit with a friendly but fast-paced environment.

Organizational Overview: Democracy Works’s mission is to increase participation across all elections by building technology for voters and election administrators. Your work is critical to achieving our  moonshot goal: 80% turnout. Over the past 2 years we have laid the groundwork to reach this goal, helping voters connect to a more modernized election system through the institutions they interact with in their daily lives.

TurboVote, our first service, helps voters register, stay registered, and cast a ballot in every election, from municipal to national. TurboVote signed up its millionth voter in 2016 by building the largest college and corporate coalition in the country, including 194 campuses, companies like Starbucks, Univision, Facebook, Google, Snapchat, and dozens more.  We also helped (basically) everyone find their polling place through the Voting Information Project. Its data had 123 million impressions in 2016, and over 11 million voters looked up where to vote on GetToThePolls.com. To scale our impact and reach every voter, we’re establishing an Election Technology Cooperative to provide affordable, voter-centered technology to election administrators. And Ballot Scout helps election administrators track absentee ballots through the mail, providing transparency in the vote-by-mail process and making it easier to follow up when things go awry.

It’s an exciting time to join our team. In March, a major foundation is announcing a $2.5 million matching grant to help kick-start our $10 million fundraising round. You will work hand-in-hand with our executive director, board, and existing donors to raise that round over the next 1-2 years, transform Democracy Works into a critical civic institution, and have a historic impact on our democracy.
 
Major responsibilities include working with the Executive Director and relevant program staff to accomplish the following:

  • Develop innovative and timely fundraising strategies, marketing materials and proposals
  • Cultivate, manage and support Democracy Works Executive Director and Program Staff’s relationships with key foundation, corporate, and individual donors/prospects 
  • Research, write, and cultivate support for grant proposals that seek general and program-specific funding 
  • Produce acknowledgements and reports for donations received from individuals and institutions
  • Coordinate and edit proposals and reports generated by other team members
  • Create and design fundraising decks
  • Represent Democracy Works in meetings with important stakeholders and at fundraising and other outreach events 
  • Respond to donor and prospect requests for information 
  • Supervise creation and maintenance of funders’ records and mailing lists in database and hard-copy files 
  • Process gifts, track contributions and prepare financial reports as needed
  • Other duties as assigned

Primary qualifications include:

  • 5-7 years of nonprofit development experience strongly preferred. Varied experiences adding up to the equivalent will be considered (e.g. raising money as a nonprofit executive).
  • Successful track record in short and long-term strategic planning and implementation, including recruitment and maintenance of past, present and potential donors
  • Experience in every aspect of foundation, corporate, and individual fundraising
  • Exceptional time management, project management, and organizational skills
  • Excellent writing, editing and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to work independently, as part of a team, and across teams
  • Ability to respond flexibly and graciously to unanticipated requests and assignments
  • Confidence in representing the organization in a wide range of public forums
  • Ability to build successful partnerships and negotiate effective agreements
  • Experience with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and strong database management skills

Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience. We’re based in Brooklyn, NY and Denver, CO. We hope you’ll want to work from our Brooklyn office, though we’ll consider remote arrangements for the perfect candidate.

To apply:

Candidates should send a short email with resume, addressed to Seth, at work@democracy.works with the subject line “Will fundraise for democracy” to begin the application process. Qualified candidates who meet the above requirements will have the opportunity to complete an anonymized skills evaluation (see below for why we do this) before we schedule an interview. Based on the application, evaluation results, interviews, and reference checks, one person will be selected for the position.

Applications will be accepted and interviews will be conducted on a rolling basis.

Democracy Works is committed to diversity and inclusion in everything we do and aspires to have a team which is representative of the voters we serve. When hiring, we practice proactive outreach to top talent that’s underrepresented in our sector (including Latinx, Black, AAPI, and Indigenous candidates), and we offer every candidate an anonymized skills evaluation, to reduce implicit bias and resume-dependency in our process. We're a woman- and gay-founded startup, and promote an inclusive culture that stands against racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism (to name a few). To be explicit, we strongly encourage applicants of all races, ethnicities, political party associations, religions (or lack thereof), national origins, sexual orientations, genders, sexes, ages, abilities, and branches of military service. Feel free to contact work@democracy.works if you have any questions about our commitment to inclusion or about general hiring practices.
 

JOB: Partnerships Associate, TurboVote

NOTE: As of March 17, 2017, we are no longer accepting applications for this position.

Location: Preferably Brooklyn, NY
Target Start Date: April 3, 2017

Salary Range: $38,000 to $48,000 per year (depending on location)
Benefits: Vision, dental, and medical insurance; 403(b) retirement savings plan; generous vacation policy
Level: Entry 

At Democracy Works, we believe voting should fit the way we live. To that end, we build technology for both voters and election administrators that simplifies the process and ensures that no voter should ever have to miss an election.

TurboVote, our first service, tracks an individual voter’s elections. We provide all the materials and information they need to get registered to vote, stay registered, and cast a ballot in every election, from municipal to national. 

The TurboVote partnerships team recruits institutions of higher education, organizations, and companies to promote voter engagement to their students, communities, employees, and customers. The partnerships team also provides support to these partners as they use TurboVote. We work with hundreds of colleges, universities, nonprofit organizations, and companies to provide TurboVote to their constituents. Ensuring the strength of those relationships requires an attentive and dedicated staff.

In 2017, our goals in higher education are: 1) to invest in our existing partners (e.g., colleges, universities, and higher ed consortiums) by helping them build more comprehensive programs for voter engagement and; 2) to bring on new partners in a way that sets them up for substantial success using TurboVote. In order to accomplish these goals, we’re looking for a multitalented organizer, customer-service whisperer, and all-around people person to join our team. 

As a Partnerships Associate for TurboVote, you will strengthen relationships with each of our partners, with a focus on higher education partners, and work closely with them to ensure they are using our technology strategically. You’ll become an expert in the world of higher education and cultivate a passion for promoting civic engagement. Also, as the primary contact for some of our partners, you will help train them on new features and continually gather feedback on how we can improve the platform. Finally, you may be responsible for renewing the TurboVote annual contract with the higher education partners you regularly work with and recruiting new partners to join our program. 

You will:

  • Execute an outreach plan to keep our partners engaged throughout the year and ensure that they’re prepared for elections as they approach.
  • Build relationships with current and potential partners across the country, supporting their campus programs (you’ll spend a lot of time on the phone).
  • Encourage partners to implement specific strategies and tactics that the TurboVote team has learned will drive higher TurboVote use and, ultimately, ballots cast. 
  • Maintain partner records so every partner gets the customized treatment they need.
  • Collect feedback from partner organizations and use it to propose new training materials, best practices, and improvements to the TurboVote technology.
  • Set ambitious annual voter engagement plans with our partners and follow up to provide the resources necessary to make them happen.
  • Attend conferences around the country in order to bolster current partner relationships and recruit new partners

You are:

  • A fantastic listener with an ability to read between the lines
  • Enthusiastic about making cold calls and building new relationships
  • Exceptionally organized
  • Able to multitask and prioritize time effectively 
  • A leader who knows how to motivate others and inspire them to succeed
  • Comfortable navigating bureaucracy and a foe of red tape
  • Excited to learn sales strategies and have the confidence to close deals with prospective college partners. 

You have:

  • Proficiency in Excel
  • Excellent customer/constituent service skills honed working with a diverse audience
  • Worked for campaigns or grassroots organizations doing direct contact outreach
  • Written in a wide variety of media, for example from email newsletters to how-to guides
  • Preferred, but not required...have worked with CRM tools (we use Insightly) or databases 

We’re based in Brooklyn, NY and Denver, CO, but we hope you’ll want to work from our Brooklyn office. Also, we imagine that the ideal candidate will be entry-level. That said, we’ll consider remote arrangements and/or a mid-level entry point for the perfect candidate.

To apply please closely follow these instructions:

1. Submit the following information for consideration to Mike at work@democracy.works with the subject “Will support democracy.”

a. A brief, informal email that includes why you’re interested in this position and how Democracy Works will better accomplish its vision (make voting a simple, seamless experience for all Americans so that no one misses an election) with you on staff. 

b. A resume of relevant experience to the responsibilities and qualifications listed above.

Applicants who send an email that adheres to the instructions above will have the opportunity to complete a practical exercise. Applicants who submit a well-executed practical exercise will be asked to participate in an interview. Based on the applications, practical exercises, interviews, and reference checks, one applicant will be offered the position.

Applications will be accepted and interviews will be conducted on a rolling basis.

Democracy Works is committed to diversity and inclusion in everything we do and aspires to have a team that's representative of the voters we serve. When hiring, we practice proactive outreach to top talent that’s underrepresented in our sector (including Latinx, Black, AAPI, and Indigenous candidates), and we offer every candidate an anonymized skills evaluation, to reduce implicit bias and resume-dependency in our process. We're a woman- and gay-founded startup, and promote an inclusive culture that stands against racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism (to name a few). To be explicit, we strongly encourage applicants of all races, ethnicities, political party associations, religions (or lack thereof), national origins, sexual orientations, genders, sexes, ages, abilities, and branches of military service. Feel free to contact work@democracy.works if you have any questions about our commitment to inclusion or about general hiring practices.
 

INTERNSHIP: TurboVote Summer Associate

NOTE: As of March 13, 2017, we are no longer accepting applications for this position.

Democracy Works is an authority in civic technology. We believe voting should fit the way we live. To that end, we build technology for both voters and election administrators that simplifies the process and ensures that no voter should ever have to miss an election.

TurboVote, our first service, tracks an individual voter’s elections. We provide all the materials and information they need to get registered, stay registered, and cast a ballot in every election, from municipal to national—and we’ll even mail forms with an addressed, stamped envelope for the local election office. Our second tool, Ballot Scout, helps local election administrators track absentee ballots as they travel through the mail, providing transparency in the vote-by-mail process and making it easier to follow up when things go awry. We also work with the Pew Charitable Trusts and Google to ensure that the Voting Information Project’s data is up-to-date and ready from one election to the next.

The Democracy Works partnerships team recruits schools, organizations, and local governments to promote voter engagement through the strategic use of our technology. Over 170 colleges and universities, more than 30 nonprofit organizations, and a dozen corporations currently use TurboVote.

In 2017, our goals are (1) to invest in our existing partners and find creative ways to help them build more comprehensive programs for voter engagement and (2) to reach new potential partners, all with a particular focus on increasing voter turnout in local and midterm elections. 

As this is a startup, you’ll get to wear a lot of hats. You should be:

  • unafraid of “no”
  • at home in an agile, fast-paced collaborative environment
  • comfortable with oral and written communications in a variety of settings, including phone presence and presentation skills
  • organized, able to prioritize time effectively and multi-task
  • a relationship-builder and all-around “people person”

Experience in political organizing, leading an organization, editing and designing, or business development is a plus, but is not a requirement.

Your job will include:

  • generating and pursuing new leads,
  • collecting and maintaining data on our partners so every contact gets the customized outreach they need,
  • building relationships with current and potential partners across the country and supporting their campus programs (you’ll spend a lot of time on the phone), and
  • using your student perspective to create content for partners that will enhance their TurboVote experience and provide ideas to increase student engagement with the tool.

This paid internship is located in Brooklyn and runs from early June to mid-August, 2017. Candidates should email a resume and cover letter, addressed to Emily, to intern@turbovote.org with the subject line “Will intern for democracy” to begin the application process. In your email, be sure to reference that you’re applying for the TurboVote Summer Associate listing. 

We are inspired by the idea of building an awesome and truly diverse team, so we strongly encourage applicants of all races, colors, political party associations, religions (or lack thereof), national origins, sexual orientations, genders, sexes, ages, abilities, and branches of military service.

 

 

Where Should the Voting Information Project Go From Here?

Democracy Works, Inc. is a participant in the working group that will help form the future of the Voting Information Project (VIP) and we are also a deeply invested stakeholder in the program itself. We want to be certain the thoughts of our community are heard and passed along, so please take the time to review this request for comment and send your feedback. 

Originally posted here

As you may have heard, The Pew Charitable Trusts has initiated a planning process to determine the future of the Voting Information Project (VIP). And as part of that process, we are seeking input from the field on what stakeholders think should be the next phase of VIP.

To that end, we invite you to submit your views—ideally no more than 500 words—on the following topics:

  1. What should VIP continue to do? What should it change?
  2. What can VIP teach about—and learn from—its efforts?
  3. Are there other opportunities for VIP (or a project like it)?
  4. What changes to VIP would make election officials more or less likely to participate?
  5. What communities are currently being missed by projects like VIP, and how can we address those shortcomings?
  6. Who else is doing work in this space, and how might VIP contribute to those efforts—and vice versa?
  7. What other questions should we be asking?
  8. The deadline for feedback is Monday, Jan. 30; please send your submissions to future@votinginfoproject.org

We plan to make the submissions available to the community; please let us know if you’d prefer not to be featured publicly.

We look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your contributions.

Voting Information Project Working Group (Note: Affiliations are for identification purposes only.)

Alexis Schuler/Monica Leibovitz, The Pew Charitable Trusts
Anthea Watson Strong/Chetan Sabnis, Google
Samidh Chakrabati, Facebook
Marc Burris, North Carolina State Board of Elections
Paul Stenbjorn, Virginia Department of Elections
Brian Corley, Pasco County, Florida, Supervisor of Elections
Kathryn Peters, Democracy Works
Tiana Epps-Johnson, Center for Technology and Civic Life
Charles Stewart, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Clarence Wardell, United States Digital Service

Wrap-Up: Parade to the Polls with Chance the Rapper

By Jill Brownfield, TurboVote Partner Support Lead, and Andrew Snyder, TurboVote Campus Outreach Lead

If you’re a fan of Chance the Rapper, you may have seen in the news that Chance and his newly organized nonprofit organization SocialWorks played host to a free concert at Grant Park in downtown Chicago followed by a Parade to the Polls on election eve night. The evening's performances concluded with Chance the Rapper playing hits from his latest album Coloring Book, delivering a positive and nonpartisan message to the crowd about the importance of voting. He then led a march of thousands of young voters to an early voting site, where attendees amplified their voices in the voting booth.

Organized by SocialWorks, Prime Fortune, and Virgin Hotels Chicago, with help from Democracy Works, Boost Mobile, Chicago Votes, and Black Youth Project 100, the event was an inspirational and positive call to young voters to participate in the democratic process. Young artists including OddCouple, Eryn Allen Kane, Twin Peaks, Taylor Bennett, and Malcolm London also performed and spoke from the stage to the crowd about the importance of voting. With an estimated 6,000 attendees, the free concert and march were a history-making event created for and by young voters.

Chance called attendees to follow him from the stage to the voting booth. “At the end of this show, we’re going to have a very cool, very peaceful, but very lit parade, march, exhibition of democracy: exactly what it looks like. Show what it looks like through the streets, what it looks like to get up and make a decision, and be a part of customizing and creating what your society looks like.” Chance’s arrival flanked by thousands of fans at the early voting site caused quite a spectacle, with lines to vote snaking around several city blocks. Ultimately, the event contributed to the most successful day of early voting in Cook County history, with more than 700 early votes being cast by event attendees that evening.

At Democracy Works, we began working with Chance and SocialWorks a few months ago when we discovered they’d been promoting our TurboVote tool as a voter registration resource at concerts on the Magnificent Coloring Day tour. With common goals of working to help young people participate in the political process through our higher education partnerships, and SocialWorks’s mission to civically engage Chicago’s youth, formalizing our partnership was a logical next step.

As the Parade to the Polls came together, SocialWorks pulled their community networks and contacts into the planning process, including organizations like Virgin Hotels Chicago, Prime Fortune, Chicago Votes, and BYP 100. These local organizations tapped crucial armies of volunteers, bringing people power to help with event security, crowd control, and marshalling the march to the polls. We also brought our contacts at Boost Mobile and their Boost Your Voice campaign to join in the fun. They brought the infrastructure to live stream the whole event online, which led to an additional 500,000 online event viewers. Together, we all worked through some unexpected obstacles like a competing large parade (congratulations, Cubs!) and a last minute venue change to pull off a historic event. In the midst of such an overwhelmingly divisive campaign season, it was our distinct pleasure to work with these organizations to pull off this display of direct action and democracy.

Monday night’s celebration was the culmination of months of work by Chance and SocialWorks to register thousands of voters. In doing so, Chance became a generational icon using a megaphone to encourage young voters in the face of media narratives about low turnout, apathy, and ignorance. Chance’s team worked with the NAACP and their #StayWokeAndVote campaign to register voters in person at recent tour stops while utilizing TurboVote to digitally call voters to action. While Millennials have often been criticized for “slacktivism,” Chance used his large social media following to tweet out TurboVote for voter registration and orchestrated the Parade to the Polls to connect fans directly to the act of voting in an overwhelmingly positive and nonpartisan way. 

We at Democracy Works played but a small role in putting this extraordinary event together as part of a wider Party at the Polls campaign, which is hosted by The TurboVote Challenge. But the reach of this movement was national. Each event across the country invited the entire host community, was nonpartisan, and free-of-cost to those attending. They occurred near polling locations during election or early voting hours. In an election cycle dominated by divisiveness, we wanted to add volume to the voices of our partners to help Americans celebrate what makes our country strong: democracy.

And celebrate in Chicago we did! Thanks to all of the individuals and organizations that made this event happen, and we look forward to future Parades to the Polls!

GUEST BLOG: 2016 TurboVote Associate Summer in Review

By Camille Traslavina

My name is Camille Traslavina, and I’m a junior at Harvard College. This summer, along with five other students from universities across the country, I had the privilege of working as a summer associate at Democracy Works. The associates joined the TurboVote Partnerships Team in Brooklyn, New York, and took on a number of projects, often aimed at building new relationships with higher education institutions interested in helping their students become more civically engaged, and assisting existing partner universities in effectively implementing TurboVote.

We worked on projects which included researching the civic engagement climates on college campuses, supporting students and faculty in their voter engagement efforts, hosting informational webinars for current and potential partners, developing materials that offer effective strategies for getting students registered, and helping Democracy Works prepare to best serve partner campuses as they intensify voter registration efforts leading up to the November presidential election.

In addition to coordinating with colleges and universities, we had the opportunity to be involved with the TurboVote Challenge, working with companies and organizations committed to reaching 80 percent voter turnout in the U.S. As a part of this effort, we attended the TurboVote Challenge Summit, a two-day meeting during which all participating organizations shared their visions for our democracy and developed plans for increasing voter registration and turnout in the coming years.

We associates also represented Democracy Works at the World Youth Report on Youth Civic Engagement at the United Nations Headquarters. While our time was focused primarily on TurboVote, we also became familiar with, and contributed to, Democracy Works’s other projects, including Ballot Scout and the Voting Information Project.

As college students, I think associates are able to bring an important student perspective to Democracy Works, and I know that for many of us, this summer served as our first experience in a nonprofit organization, startup environment. We formed friendships with each other and the office staff that will remain meaningful for years to come. I hope we’ll continue to reflect on our experiences at Democracy Works and explore ways to use what we’ve learned throughout our school years and beyond. We have all now returned to our respective colleges and universities, and started laying groundwork to get our peers to the polls this November, but the memories shared during the summer we spent in Brooklyn preparing for one of our country’s most influential elections will not soon fade.

 

PARTNER SPOTLIGHT: University of Chicago

By Shree Shah, Democracy Works Summer Associate, TurboVote

This past 2015-2016 academic year, the University of Chicago put forth tremendous effort to increase voter engagement and registration on campus. With the help of the Institute of Politics (IOP) and the IOP’s Adam Reynolds, UChicago was able to sign up a record number of its students for TurboVote. On the smaller side of a medium-sized campus, they knew that on-the-ground bottlenecks would work best for their campus. As a result, they planned multiple tabling events and challenges in high traffic areas. UChicago’s success is a testament to what a strong civic engagement strategy can do with the help of TurboVote.

Each fall, most colleges go through a freshman orientation program, and UChicago capitalized on this process by registering a greater number students than any other time of the year. Unsuspecting first year students filed into the Reynolds Club to return academic forms. After they finished this process, they were funneled into another line in another room. At the end of the line, they had waiting for them, a gift bag and computers. Each student received their Class of 2018 gift bag, and was then guided over to the computers that had the UChicago TurboVote co-branded site on the monitors. One by one, with the help of Adam and other IOP volunteers, the incoming class signed up for TurboVote. As UChicago’s numbers demonstrate, catching students during a mandatory orientation event can be extremely valuable.In that one event, UChicago signed up 459 students, nearly one third of the incoming class! 

At UChicago, students are separated into different figurative houses, which are located in one of the dorms. Students are extremely loyal to their given houses, which are the source of age-old rivalries. As a result, one of the most successful events this past year was the inter-house challenge. In the winter, each house was given a unique referral code and the house with the most TurboVote sign-ups won a pizza party. Through this effort, the IOP was able to register an additional 200 students!

As any administrator knows, students are constantly online in some capacity. So, UChicago implemented a few digital strategies on campus. Periodically, emails were sent out to the student body encouraging them to get registered to vote and then to actually vote. The university’s social media accounts were also utilized, as they have a large follower base. Lastly, the IOP placed a call to action on their website that linked to the UChicago TurboVote co-branded site.

Having primaries throughout the course of the year definitely helped increase the number of students that wanted to get registered to vote. And, after a full year’s effort, UChicago was able to sign-up about 1,000 students (up from 630 registrants in the previous year)!

Let’s Put Pokémon In Polling Places

By Seth Flaxman, co-founder and executive director of Democracy Works

On a warm Friday night in July, hundreds of people tore through Central Park on the hunt for Vaporeon—a very rare Pokémon Go creature. But what if Pokémon Go players had to hunt Vaporeon--or, for that matter, Squirtle, Arcanine or Zapdos--in polling places come November 8th?

Savvy political organizers are already capitalizing on the most-downloaded app of all time, which works by having players go to “PokéStops” (real world public places) to pick up “Pokéballs” and other virtual objects, then find a “Gym” to battle their Pokémon against other players. On July 12, the Ohio organizing director for the Clinton campaign was showing up at both Stops and Gyms to register players to vote. The campaign then took the next logical step and started dropping “Lures” at an event in Lakewood, Ohio in Madison Park on July 16.  Lures are a feature of the game, where players can spend $1.19 an hour to attract Pokémon to a specific PokéStop or Gym. The tactic soon became bipartisan with the Campaign Communications Director for Senator Rand Paul’s election luring players to a PokéStop in Louisville, KY where they could register to vote and learn more about the Republican former candidate for president.

Small businesses, multinational companies, advocacy groups and local governments have all caught onto the strategy too. New York pizzeria L'inizio Pizza Bar saw sales spike 75 percent last weekend after its manager, Sean Benedetti, spent $10 setting lures at a nearby PokéStop. On July 20th, McDonald’s Japanese arm announced an exclusive deal with Niantic, the San Francisco based developers of Pokémon Go, to turn all 3,000 Japanese locations into Gyms. On July 13th, NextGen Climate in Nevada, an anti-climate change group, dropped lures for their registration drive in Paradise Park, Las Vegas. The elections office for the city of Denver, CO did the same, dropping a lure near their office to register voters.  Without a doubt, the virtual world is now moving millions of people to take actions in the physical one.

The potential to get voters to the polls is there, but those seeking to use Pokémon Go to increase turnout might crash right into election law. Brian Corley, the Supervisor of Elections for Pasco County, Florida, warned this week that players not registered to vote “could be arrested” if they went hunting for Pokémon at an early voting site or polling place. Many polling places are located at Recreation Centers or other public buildings that feature PokeStop or Gyms, and according to Florida election law, only registered voters and poll workers are legally permitted inside.

Florida, like many states, also has a 100-foot buffer around the entrances to voting locations where electioneering isn’t allowed. The former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission, Michael Toner, recently argued that campaigns should be legally allowed to buy lures inside the non-solicitation buffer. Toner says that anything inside Pokémon Go isn’t actually in a public space because it exists in a virtual universe only viewable through a mobile app a voter chose to download. Regardless, there’s no certainty when it comes to applying election laws to augmented reality, most were written before the internet was even invented.

The best course of action would be for Niantic to avoid these issues entirely by baking voter participation directly into the platform. Compared to the technology behind augmented reality, Niantic could easily help players verify their registration status or register them to vote, and then “naturally” release rare Pokémon at polling places that only registered voters could see.

There’s a strong precedent for corporations embracing just such a civic duty. In 2008, Starbucks gave away free cups of coffee to people who said they voted. This past March the company launched an effort to help all 150,000 of their US employees register to vote and joined the TurboVote Challenge, a coalition that includes Spotify, Lyft, Airbnb, and the Video Game Voters Network. It’s a moonshot goal to reach 80% voter turnout within a decade, asking companies to leverage their brands and businesses to help users and customers become active citizens.

This isn’t just a good marketing strategy. Voter turnout in the United States is in crisis. The United States currently ranks 138th among countries across the world in voter turnout over the last 50 years, as measured by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Only around half of us are voting in presidential elections, around 40 percent in midterms, and between 20 and 5 percent in most local and primary elections. With less than half of the U.S. population regularly deciding on their choice of representation, we are missing the voices of too many people for our government to be truly representative. In order to have a nation that represents the people, the people must turn up to vote.

Getting people active, however, could be as simple as tying participation to something joyful, like catching a Snorlax. In fact, the founder of Citizen University, Eric Liu, recently wrote that make voting a joyful social activity would be a return to our roots. Traditionally speaking, voting in the US was about parades, festivals, bonfires and raucous street theater. A walk to a PokéStop should allow players to hatch Pokémon Eggs and a love for voting at the same time.

Throughout U.S. history, presidential campaigns have been at the cutting edge of augmented reality, insisting that voters look at our world through a funhouse mirror of cartoonish monsters. It’s not too late, however, for a different type of augmented reality to be used for good this election cycle. Let’s make voting fun again.

Brexit Is Just the Beginning

By Seth Flaxman, co-founder and executive director of Democracy Works

Nearly two months on, we can start to see the effects of the Brexit vote. No matter where one stood on Britain leaving the EU, the decision was made by those that showed up to the polls. The Britons who didn’t participate woke up to the enormous consequences of their decision to let others speak for them. To name just one demographic, voters 18-24 were 75% in favor of Remain but only 36% participated.

The Brexit should be a wake up call to strengthen democracy. Over the next few decades, every nation will confront enormous decisions. Decisions without precedent, problems without playbooks. Get used to pundits referring to every election as the most important vote of our lifetimes. This is the new normal; a future where hugely consequential elections tackling complex issues will fall like relentless blows. For democracies to survive this future, the voting public must be more informed and more engaged than ever before. Is U.S. democracy, the oldest continually functioning democracy in the world, up for the challenge?

In a word: no. The United States ranks 138th in turnout among democracies worldwide, as measured by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance over the past 50 years. That means only about half of us are participating in presidential elections, around 40 percent in midterms, and often only between 25 percent and 5 percent in local and primary elections. These are crisis levels of turnout. In a democracy, sovereignty must originate with the people, and elections are the ultimate source of legitimacy. Continuing into this new era with such low engagement puts the legitimacy of our democracy at stake.

Democracies also work better when the vast majority of citizens are pulling the lever. Some of the biggest problems in our democracy are enabled by low turnout. Corrupt party bosses, major donors, special interests, all of them can more easily manipulate the outcome of an election when turnout is low. It should come as no surprise that politicians refuse to compromise for the common good when only a small fraction of the most ideological voters participate in the primary elections that put them in power.

Yet, it’s still not too late. Our society can take big leaps toward mass engagement even without the help of politicians. This past March, Starbucks and a dozen other companies launched the TurboVote Challenge, a moonshot goal to reach 80 percent voter turnout, using their brands and businesses to engage customers and employees in voting. This is the first phase of the moonshot, and it’s, in part, meant to redefine voter engagement as a responsibility of every sector, not just government. As Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said of his company’s efforts, “It does not matter if you are a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent. Our intention is nonpartisan, and it is simple: by helping to increase voter registration and participation, we believe more people will have an opportunity to make their voices count.” 100 percent of Americans are served by at least one major corporation, so if companies helped educate citizens about voting, we could reach all 219 million Americans eligible to vote.

Then, this June, Harvard set the bar, becoming a national model for campus voter engagement overnight. Each semester, all Harvard undergraduate students must complete a mandatory “check-in” process prior to arriving on campus. Beginning in the fall of 2016, that process will include giving students the opportunity to register to vote in any state, request absentee ballots, or receive text and email updates reminding them of upcoming elections. There are over 1,500 institutions of higher education in our country. All of them can be centers of civic education in addition to places of learning. All should inspire students to become informed voters.

What would it look like if every American institution, private and public, took on the same responsibility? It would change our democracy forever, awakening a spirit of participation and citizenship nationwide. Mass engagement is possible, but it will literally take all of us. No less than the future of our democracy depends on it.

JOB: Product Manager

NOTE: As of August 25, we are no longer accepting applications for this position.

At Democracy Works, we believe voting should fit the way we live. To that end, we build technology for both voters and election administrators that simplifies the process and ensures that no voter should ever have to miss an election.

TurboVote, our first service, provides election reminders to more than 400,000 voters. We provide all the materials and information they need to get registered, stay registered, and cast a ballot in every election, from municipal to national—and we’ll even mail forms with an addressed, stamped envelope for the local election office. (And in projects this role won't be responsible for, we offer Ballot Scout, which helps local election administrators track absentee ballots by the tens of thousands as they travel through the mail, providing transparency in the vote-by-mail process and making it easier to follow up when things go awry. We also work with the Pew Charitable Trusts and Google to ensure that the Voting Information Project’s data is up-to-date and ready from one election to the next, for the millions and millions of voters who rely on it.)

You’ll be joining us at an exciting time: after 18 months rebuilding the TurboVote application from the bottom up, we relaunched turbovote.org in March 2016, and are in the process of migrating all 200+ partner organizations to TurboVote 2.0 for this November’s election. You’ll be taking over a product with solid core features and a microservices architecture – and guiding the way as we build out our dreams on that foundation. Our grand plans include conducting ALL the split-testing and experimentation, giving our partners the best imaginable tools for outreach, reporting, and iterative learning, and refining (or wholly reimagining) the user experience to increase turnout.

As Product Manager for TurboVote, you will:

  • define and prioritize strategic goals for the product as a member of the Democracy Works leadership team
  • develop a roadmap to take TurboVote 2.0 from MVP to THE platform for civic engagement
  • conduct user tests and user research to identify new features and updates with TurboVote partners, and use their feedback to make prioritization decisions
  • pair with a developer lead to define implementation for new features, and participate in regular sprint-planning meetings with the developer team to define and prioritize their work
  • collaborate with the Partnerships team to maintain user guides and documentation for partner organizations

You are:

  • obsessively attentive to detail
  • empathetic, putting yourself in the user’s shoes and acting as their main advocate
  • able to see the big picture and maintain strategic focus
  • persuasive, able to communicate your vision to both technical and non-technical audiences
  • a fantastic listener
  • creative, in the way that appreciates a clear wireframe and a well-pared MVP
  • at ease facilitating both a focused one-on-one conversation and a boisterous group debate

You have experience:

  • as a product owner or project manager on a software-development team
  • meeting with outside stakeholders
  • setting strategic goals and priorities

Salary is competitive and commensurate with education and experience. Democracy Works also offers a benefits package including health insurance, dental and vision, vacation, and a 403(b) retirement plan. We’re based in Brooklyn, NY and Denver, CO, and we hope you’ll want to work from our Brooklyn office, though we’ll consider remote arrangements for the perfect candidate.

To apply, send a resume and an informal introduction (say, two paragraphs?) to Katy and Mike at work@democracy.works with the subject “Will design for democracy.”

Democracy Works is committed to diversity and inclusion in everything we do and aspires to have a team that's representative of the voters we serve. When hiring, we practice proactive outreach to top talent that’s underrepresented in our sector (including Latino, Black, AAPI, and Indigenous candidates). We conduct an anonymized skills evaluation, to reduce implicit bias and resume-dependency in our process. We're a woman- and gay-founded startup, and promote an inclusive culture that stands against racism, sexism, homophobia, and ableism (to name a few). To be explicit, we strongly encourage applicants of all races, ethnicities, political party associations, religions (or lack thereof), national origins, sexual orientations, genders, sexes, ages, abilities, and branches of military service. Feel free to contact work@democracy.works if you have any questions about our commitment to inclusion or about general hiring practices.

JOB: Project Management Fellow

UPDATE: As of 8/1/2016, we are no longer accepting new applications to this posting. Thank you for your interest!

At Democracy Works, we believe that voting should fit the way we live. To that end, we build and maintain several datasets of election information so every voter can know when and where to vote. This data powers everything from Google’s Civic Information API to our own text and email reminders to TurboVote users.

As the November presidential election approaches, we’re recruiting a short-term project lead to coordinate data fellows, outreach staff, and Democracy Workers to collect, parse, and assure the quality of a nation’s work of election data by November. This is a full-time, paid position running from immediately/the start of August through just after Election Day.

As a project lead for Democracy Works, you’ll:

  • Support a dataset that has served millions (and tens of millions) of voters since 2008

  • Organize, prioritize, and track the progress of the project from data collection through parsing, quality assurance, and publication.

  • Draft communications (emails, phone scripts) and contact election offices

  • Provide project updates to fellows, Democracy Workers, and external stakeholders

  • Coordinate the work of outreach fellows, data fellows, and Democracy Works staff

You are:

  • Obsessively attentive to detail

  • Creative, in the way that recognizes the artistry of a well-color-coded spreadsheet or Gantt chart

  • Capable of staying focused in a high-energy environment

  • Outgoing, whether making new friends over the phone or collaborating with a tight-knit team

You have experience:

  • Managing projects with tight deadlines

  • (Preferably) in politics or government

  • Working on highly collaborative teams

This is a full-time, competitively-paid position running through the week of the election. We’re based in Brooklyn, NY and strongly prefer fellows to join us in the Brooklyn office.

To apply, send a resume and pithy introduction to Katy and Carmen at work@democracy.works with the subject “Will organize for democracy.”

We are inspired by the idea of building an awesome and truly diverse team, so we strongly encourage applicants of all races, colors, political party associations, religions (or lack thereof), national origins, sexual orientations, genders, sexes, ages, abilities, and branches of military service. Feel free to contact work@democracy.works if you have any questions about our commitment to diversity or about general hiring practices.