By Anthea Watson-Strong (Google) and Alexis Schuler (Pew Charitable Trusts)
In 2008, a group of us at The Pew Charitable Trusts and Google came together on what seemed like a far-fetched idea at the time - using the Internet to bring state and local election officials closer to their voters on key questions about the voting process: Where do I vote? What’s on my ballot? What are the rules and deadlines for casting my vote?
Eight years and three presidential elections later, the Voting Information Project (VIP) is one of the most successful civic tech projects in history:
Millions of voters have used VIP data to make plans for Election Day and cast a timely and well-informed ballot;
State and local election offices have taken election information that used to be tucked away and put it where voters can find it: search engines, social media – even their mobile phones;
Thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of many people across the country, this information is now available in numerous languages and formats, matching the diversity of our nation.
Looking ahead, the time has come to think about the future. After over 15 years in the field, beginning in 2017 Pew will be transitioning out of the elections space and will focus on finding new long-term homes for each of the flagship projects in its portfolio, including VIP.
Over the next few months all of us at VIP, and most of you as well, will be focused on the 2016 election. After the election (and with a pause for rest and recuperation!) Pew, Google and VIP’s user community will come together in a process that seeks to establish a permanent home for the project and ensure the long-term availability of the data VIP publishes. We are committed to preserving the work of the community so that it can continue to benefit election officials, developers and voters in years to come. Our plans are still in the early stages, but we promise the following:
The process will be designed to ensure the continued long-term existence and growth of VIP;
We know there are many who have an interest in VIP’s future – members of the election community who provide the data, members of the development community who build products to help voters find the information they need to participate in the civic process and members of the funding community who support the work - we will ensure all these voices are heard;
We will be open and transparent with everyone who works on and believes in VIP and its vital role in the American system of democracy and elections.
Watch this space in the next few months; by the end of January 2017 we aim to have an update on the planning process for VIP’s future – and the steps you can take to be a part of that process. In the meantime, if you have questions, comments or concerns you’d like to share with us, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first eight years of the Voting Information Project have been an amazing experience – and we can’t wait to see what more the future brings.