electionline.org Joins Democracy Fund

[Screenshot image via electionline]

Big news yesterday, as the Democracy Fund announced that it had acquired electionline.org as part of its efforts to inform the field about developments in the election community. DF’s Stacey Scholl and Tammy Patrick have a guest post in this week’s electionlineWeekly:

Democracy Fund has long been enthusiastic about the value of electionline.org as a site for important news and information, which is why Democracy Fund has provided financial support for its maintenance and continuance since 2014. As the partnership with electionline.org deepened, there was space for both organizations to consider what a long-term commitment could look like. We are so pleased to share that agreement was made to bring the site within Democracy Fund as a project.

Over the next year, Democracy Fund’s Elections team will work with electionline.org editor Mindy Moretti to manage and grow the site because we believe it remains a powerful tool for sharing knowledge. We will remain committed to a strictly nonpartisan lens and transparency about the role our organization plays. We know the election administration community only has a handful of places to find curated and organized news relevant to their work. For this small group, electionline.org has been a place for the story of American elections to unfold separately from the political race and campaign rhetoric.

Since 2013, electionline.org has operated independently under the leadership of Mindy Moretti, who joined in 2005 and is the current site editor. The site is now more than 16 years old and former editor Doug Chapin says that he is “pleased that it is bigger, better, and has lasted longer than many people (including me!) expected.”

Mindy shared that “there is a story behind every vote cast. There is a story behind every new innovation or piece of equipment purchased.” She noted that while the site has benefitted from its time as an independent entity, there have been drawbacks — like delaying the creation of new features or modernizing the archives for searchability. In this way, she compares the resource constraint to that of election officials making choices about where to spend and where to save. She is glad that the site will have a home with Democracy Fund where it can thrive.

electionline.org has its roots in some of the most compelling election moments of our country’s history, and we want it to be around for many more pivotal events and conversations. The need for a website like electionline.org was felt after the 2000 presidential election, when interested groups, academics, and practitioners recognized that there was little to no routine information about the processes, equipment, and ideas shaping elections. Without this information, there might still be no dialogue about what is a common practice or a new innovation.

Today, the site is known for giving context for key issues and elevating the voices of election administrators, many of whom are more accustomed to correcting statements about laws, rules, and regulations than sharing their perspective and work.

Doug Chapin, founding editor of electionline.org in 2001, shared that, as part of its Election Reform Information Project (ERIP), The Pew Charitable Trusts made a grant to the University of Richmond for a website with a goal of creating a common source of knowledge that gives anyone in the elections field a sense of what was happening in their area. The site would share “election administration news only, with an emphasis on state and local coverage that was comprehensive, but not overly inclusive of topics like campaign finance or redistricting.” He recalls that there was a clear effort to “inform to reform.”

Doug explained that through the site, election news was presented in three rhythms: daily news roundups, weekly newsletters, and monthly/quarterly reports. This gave readers a choice for information, so they could read what they had time for and interest in. In 2007, electionline.org became part of the Pew Charitable Trust’s’Election Initiatives. Like StateLine, and other important Pew resources, electionline.org developed a reputation for spotting issues in the field before they reached many decision-makers, giving a preview of what to avoid and what new practices are possible.

Mindy will be an essential part of the next phase of electionline.org, remaining onboard as the editor, which entails waking before readers on the East Coast start their day and searching for stories to post. She will also assist with developing plans for the future. “I want electionline.org to be the first place people go to when looking for election reform news and information. We may not be your last stop online, but we hope to be your first.” She has said that continuing to watch electionline.org mature will be important to her given her long tenure with the site.

The team who started and have maintained electionline.org can be very proud of what it has become. Democracy Fund staff hope to be good stewards of the site. As the election profession continues to evolve in an ever-changing landscape, we will seek out your feedback (please email elections@democracyfund.org) on how the site can help you and other readers to connect with useful knowledge for better elections.

While this is undoubtedly big news for the field, it’s also a source of great joy to me; electionline is a project with which I am proud to have been associated – plus Mindy has been a fantastic colleague and has invested so much of her time and effort in continuing and growing the site as it enters its 17th(!!) year.

Congratulations to everyone involved in the announcement -and thanks to DF’s Adam Ambrogi,  another long time friend and colleague who recognized electionline’s long-term value to the community. I can’t wait to see what’s next with electionline … so like you, I’ll stay tuned!

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