April 21, 2022
U.S. Digital Response Establishes Elections Program to Build a Digital Infrastructure for American Elections
Through USDR’s Elections Program, election officials will receive simple, effective digital tools and a surge of assistance to serve voters at the speed of need
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - U.S. Digital Response (USDR), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps governments and organizations respond quickly and efficiently to the critical needs of the public, today announced its focus on supporting election officials through the establishment of its Elections Program with multi-million, multi-year funding supported by the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL).
USDR will partner closely with election offices to build and scale simple, effective digital tools that will help remove administrative burden for election officials by automating manual tasks. USDR’s tools are not focused on the voting systems themselves, but rather building open source technology to streamline processes required to safely and efficiently administer an election, including: communicating with the public clearly and transparently, staffing poll workers, managing locations and assets, and more.
"Elections are a pivotal ingredient of our democracy and one that needs to work even when under pressure. There is a real opportunity to help our election officials face the critical issues affecting their infrastructure today while building resiliency to meet their future needs in a rapidly changing landscape,” Jessica Cole, CEO of U.S. Digital Response, said. “We are thrilled to be a part of the Center for Tech and Civic Life’s efforts. Our election official partners are in need of sustainable, accessible tools to show up for voters across the country at the speed of need. We hope to deliver much needed support for their important work.”
Since 2020, USDR has built software to make voting accessible and efficient for over 13M Americans across nearly 70 different engagements with 48 governments and nonprofits.
USDR will build upon its established partnerships across the country, including:
- A poll locator tool for Native American voters in Arizona with non-standard addresses
- Elections information websites for election departments to help inform voters, an effort that allowed Centre County, Pennsylvania to quickly deploy a site within weeks for free, saving thousands of dollars.
- Easy-to-use digital tools for election officials to manage poll workers, used by Harris County, Texas to process over 7,000 applications and distribute workers to over 700 polling locations, an effort that won a 2020 Clearinghouse Award from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission highlighted several of these projects as ongoing resources for election officials with upcoming elections.
“Elections are a complex system that needs to be run efficiently and securely and be available to every eligible voter,” Kristina Nichols, an election official at Harris County in Texas said. “Through our partnership with U.S. Digital Response, we were able to meet the needs of our election workers across the county by providing them with critical tech support and staffing. By saving hundreds of hours of work by automating administrative tasks through simple and effective digital tools, our team was able to focus on enhancing the voting experience for our 2.5 million registered voters.”
Election officials today are facing unprecedented challenges - record-high turnouts, responding to a pandemic, and adapting to a complex, shifting regulatory landscape. Yet election systems lack the requisite funding and support to manage the additional burden: elections on average receive just 0.5% of a typical county budget. To help preserve the resilience of our democratic system, USDR is committed to providing pro bono partnerships to election officials in order to help them respond to new challenges as they come up as well as use technology to build more sustainable systems for the future.
This effort is part of a partnership with the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, a nonpartisan collaborative that is bringing together election officials, designers, technologists, and other experts to envision, support, and celebrate excellence in U.S. election administration. The collaborative is led by CTCL with its partners the Center for Civic Design, Center for Secure and Modern Elections, the Elections Group, Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (the d.school) at Stanford University, Prototyping Systems Lab at UC Davis, and USDR.
“Every American voter, no matter their zip code, should have access to a process that is fair and trustworthy,” said Tiana Epps-Johnson, executive director of the Center for Tech and Civic Life. “Unfortunately, years of under-investment means many local election departments often have limited capacity and training. The U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence will bring together world-class partners so that local election officials no longer have to go it alone.”
The Elections Program is part of a portfolio within USDR designed to scale tools, approaches, and a vast network of expert technologists that can adapt to the specific needs of any state or local government. The program, managed by USDR’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Co-Founder, Alex Allain, recently welcomed program leads Priya Garg, formally a Technical Product Manager at Amazon, and Lindsey Wilson, recent Executive Director and Co-Founder at Unloop. The program is currently hiring multiple staff members and recruiting pro bono professionals to work alongside election official partners.
“U.S. Digital Response has built and scaled reusable tools that not only save election offices time and money, but help officials focus on their primary mission of running safe, secure and efficient elections,” Alex Allain, CTO of U.S. Digital Response. “Through our partnership with the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, we’re excited to expand upon this work and focus on our partners' needs. Shared, scalable software is an ideal way to help automate and streamline key portions of election administration and helps officials focus on what they do best: running elections.”
Established in March 2020, USDR has partnered with nearly 230 government and nonprofit organizations in order to help deliver technical solutions for our country’s most pressing needs. Working on more than 300 projects that have impacted more than 42 million people across 38 states and territories, USDR has built a dedicated community of over 7,000 pro bono technologists who are ready to serve. In addition to its community of volunteers, USDR has expanded its team of dedicated staff members to more than 20 and is continuing to grow.
For election officials or other government and nonprofits looking to partner with USDR, visit https://www.usdigitalresponse.org/governments/.
About U.S. Digital Response
U.S. Digital Response is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps governments and organizations respond quickly and efficiently to support the critical needs of the public. Founded in 2020, USDR connects governments and organizations with a surge of technology, resources, and support at key moments, leaving them better equipped to deliver services and support to millions of people nationwide.
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