Knight News Challenge on Elections Winners Announced

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[Image courtesy of KNF]

Yesterday, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced the winners of its 2015 News Challenge on Elections. From the release:

Twenty-two projects that better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections will receive $3.2 million as winners of the Knight News Challenge.  The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation made the announcement today at a convening hosted by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the The University of Texas at Austin’s Moody College of Communication.

The winners provide a wide range of solutions to help better inform voters about the candidates and issues at both the local and national level, as well as reduce barriers to getting people to the polls. They range from offering new ways to bring more transparency to campaign financing to increasing voter participation by providing information tools on the elections process, candidates and issues. Ten of the winners will receive investments of $200,000 to $525,000 each, while 12 early-stage ideas will receive $35,000 each through the Knight Prototype Fund, which helps people explore early-stage media and information ideas.

“Focusing on the critical area of elections, the winners explore new ways to use data and technology to enable citizens to determine their own best interests,” said John Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for media innovation.

“The winning projects offer the potential to help ensure voters have the information they need to make decisions at the polls and also become more involved and engaged in the issues that affect their communities beyond election times,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism.

“We applaud the Knight Foundation for leading this collaborative effort to spur new problem-solving approaches in the field of civic engagement. By joining together to invest in early-stage ideas, we will amplify the potential for impact of the winning projects, spur collaboration in the field, and enable others to replicate successful approaches,” said Elizabeth Good Christopherson, president and chief executive officer of the Rita Allen Foundation.

“The Hewlett Foundation is pleased to collaborate with other funders to support these new civic engagement projects as part of the Knight News Challenge,” said Kelly Born, program officer at the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Madison Initiative. “The winning projects hold great promise for informing citizens and journalists, and enabling them to play their parts in our system of representative democracy.”

Launched in February, the challenge is a collaboration between Knight, the Democracy Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Rita Allen Foundation. The Democracy Fund and Hewlett Foundation each contributed $250,000 to the challenge and the Rita Allen Foundation contributed $150,000.

The Knight News Challenge asked innovators for ideas that better inform citizens and encourage civic participation before, during and after elections.

The winning projects include:

2016 Political Ad Tracker by Internet Archive | $200,000 | Project leads: Roger Macdonald, and Tracey Jaquith; San Francisco: Bringing accountability to the voting process by creating a public library of TV news and political advertising from key 2016 primary election states, paired with nonpartisan fact-checking and additional analysis from PolitiFact, the University of Pennsylvania’s FactCheck.org, The Center for Public Integrity and others.

Campaign Hound by Reese News Lab, University of North Carolina | $150,000 | Project leads: John Clark and Sara Peach; Chapel Hill, N.C.:  Helping to hold politicians more accountable through a searchable archive of campaign speech transcripts that provides customized alerts to keep voters informed about candidates and allows journalists and others to monitor political speeches remotely.

California Civic Data Coalition by California Civic Data Coalition, a partnership between The Los Angeles Times, Investigative Reporters and Editors and Stanford University | $250,000 |  Project leads: Ben Welsh, Cheryl Phillips, Aaron Williams, Jennifer LaFleur; Los Angeles: Making it easier to track money in California politics with an open-source tool that will help journalists, academics and others mine campaign finance data.

Civic Engagement Toolkit for Local Election Officials by Center for Technology and Civic Life | $400,000 | Project leads: Whitney May, Tiana Epps-Johnson, Whitney Quesenbery; Chicago: Helping local governments more easily engage with communities by developing a civic engagement toolkit for election offices, including website templates, icons and illustrations that provide visual guides for information seekers, wait-time calculators and other tools.

Informed Voting From Start to Finish by E.thePeople | $200,000 | Project leads: Seth Flaxman, Kathryn Peters, Whitney Quesenbery and Alex Quinn; New York: Helping build a more informed electorate and making the voting process easier by combining the voter services of TurboVote, which helps people register to vote, request and absentee ballot and receive election reminders, with local guides and candidate information from E.thePeople.

Inside the 990 Treasure Trove by The Center for Responsive Politics in partnership with GuideStar | $525,000 | Project lead: Robert Maguire; Washington, D.C.: Helping voters and journalists better understand who is funding campaigns by partnering with GuideStar to unearth more comprehensive data on the sources of so-called “dark money.”

Revive My Vote by Marshall-Wythe Law Foundation | $230,000 | Project lead: Mark Listes and Rebecca Green; Richmond, Va.: Helping Virginians with prior felony convictions restore their voting rights by organizing local law students to help remotely process rights restoration applications and lessening wait times for those who have applied; an outreach platform will also be developed to motivate and inform prospective applicants.

Sharp Insight by Youth Outreach Adolescent Community Awareness Program | $250,000 |   Project lead: Duerward Beale; Philadelphia: Engaging black men in elections by recruiting barbers in predominantly African-American communities to disseminate nonpartisan information and resources on voting.

The Next Generation Beyond Exit Polls by the Associated Press | $250,000 | Project leads: Sally Buzbee, David Pace and Emily Swanson; Washington, D.C.: Providing less expensive, more accurate alternatives to exit polling by working with survey firms to develop new ways to gauge voter preferences in real time.

Vote-by-Smartphone by Long Distance Voter | $325,000 | Project lead: Debra Cleaver; San Francisco: Making it easier to vote by mail by using mobile technology to allow voters to request absentee ballots with their smartphone.

The 12 Prototype Fund winners receiving $35,000 each include:

Accessible Voting for Everyone by University of Florida | Project lead: Juan Gilbert, @DrJuanGilbert, @FloridaEngineer; Gainesville, Fla.: Making voting easy and accessible to all through an open source electronic voting system that allows citizens, including those with disabilities, to cast ballots by actions such as tapping a touchscreen or speaking into a microphone.

Erase the Line by D.C. Board of Elections | Project lead: Margarita Mikhaylova, @dcboee;  Washington, D.C: Helping election officials improve the voting process by creating a digital platform that will document wait-time information at polling places across the nation.

Judge Your Judges by WNYC | Project lead: Kat Aaron, @kataaron, and John Keefe, @WNYC, @jkeefe; New York: Enabling people to make more knowledgeable decisions about judicial elections through a tool that will provide key information, insights and context about candidates, their views and the court system.

Lenses by NYC Media Lab | Project lead: Amy Chen, @nycmedialab; New York: Enabling journalists and other storytellers to transform and visualize data to build interactive election stories through an open-source, mobile-friendly tool.

Rhode Island Civic Fellowship by Rhode Island Secretary of State | Project lead: Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, @RISecState; Providence, R.I.: Encouraging more millennials to vote through a statewide civic fellowship program designed to inspire, recruit and train them to get involved in shaping voting and elections in their communities.

OpenJudiciary.org by Free Law Project | Project leads: Michael Lissner, @mlissner, and Brian Carver, @brianwc; Berkeley, Calif.: Helping to make judicial elections more transparent by creating online profiles of judges that show campaign contributions, judicial opinions and biographies.

Prompt Data Query by Center for Responsive Politics | Project lead: Sarah Bryner, @aksarahb; Washington, D.C.: Bringing more transparency and accountability to elections, through an automated, interactive tool that will give users access to real-time campaign finance data.

Silent Targeting, Loud Democracy by University of Wisconsin (Madison, Wis.) Project lead: Young Mie Kim, @DiMAP_UW. Promoting transparency in elections by prototyping an investigative service that tracks political ads that use online microtargeting to reveal how political action committees, parties and candidates target individual voters based on their personal information. 

Tabs on Tallahassee by the Orlando Sentinel | Project leads: Charles Minshew, @CharlesMinshew, and Andrew Gibson, @AndrewGibson27; Orlando, Fla.: Fostering government transparency by creating a searchable database of the voting records of Florida lawmakers for newsrooms across the state.

The Iowa Electorate by The Des Moines Register | Project lead: Amalie Nash, @AmalieNash;  Des Moines, Iowa: Engaging young voters in the Iowa caucuses by sponsoring a series of public events and initiatives that use social media to draw millennial attention to issues and candidates.

Up for Debate Ohio! by the Jefferson Center | Project lead: Kyle Bozentko, @JeffersonCtr;  Akron, Ohio: Increasing political knowledge in Ohio through community deliberation, online engagement and the media to provide citizens the opportunity to discuss issues and campaigns thoughtfully and civilly.

Voter’s Edge by MapLight | Project lead: Michael Canning, @votersedge; Berkeley, Calif.: Providing in-depth voter information that is easily accessible, neutral and factual on one platform; the mobile-optimized guide provides voter information on federal, state and local elections, including endorsements, candidate biographies, ballot measure summaries, top funder lists, videos, news, and more.

Congratulations to the winners, which include many names already familiar to readers of this blog … can’t wait to see the results of these projects!

1 Comment on "Knight News Challenge on Elections Winners Announced"

  1. I’ve taken note of this insight and I will apply it when I’m able to. I truly like your writing style and how well you express your thoughts. I am really beyond blown away, I got to tell you. Wow, that is beyond belief.

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