For-profit

BallotReady

Website:

ballotready.org

Location:

Chicago, IL

CEO:

Alex Niemczewski

Type:

Digital tool, App

Project of:

University of Chicago’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation and Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Formation:

2015

BallotReady is an online election-education resource that aggregates information from candidates’ websites, social media profiles, and news media outlets. It was launched as a project of the Social New Venture Challenge, a competition for graduate students at the University of Chicago. As of 2016, BallotReady was operational in a dozen states and offered information on its website regarding over 15,000 candidates. [1] [2]

Financial supporters of BallotReady include the National Science Foundation and the left-leaning Knight Foundation. [3]

Background

In 2015, Aviva Rosman, a graduate student in Chicago, ran for a seat in a local school council. While trying to gain support for her bid, she contacted a friend, Alex Niemczewski, who did not realize that an election was taking place. Thereafter, both developed an idea for an online tool which could give voters easy access to information on races that typically do not receive much public attention. [4] [5]

During that year, they pitched their idea to the Social New Venture Challenge, a competition organized by the University of Chicago’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation in partnership with the university’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The contest winners receive $100,000 to fund their projects and are required to enroll in an associated course. The proposal from Rosman and Niemczewski won the prize and the project was operational in time for the 2015 Chicago mayoral race, though its educational offerings consisted of only paper flyers. By 2016, BallotReady was operational in a dozen states and offered information on its website regarding over 15,000 candidates, aggregated from social media, candidates’ official campaign websites, and news media. [6] [7]

Initial supporters of BallotReady, aside from the University of Chicago, included the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency, and the Knight Foundation, a left-leaning private foundation that funds media-related projects. [8]

Activities

As of 2018, BallotReady offers a tool to its users called ‘Make a Plan,’ which provides information on the location of polling places and allows users to set up a date and time at which the tool will automatically send them text reminders to vote. [9]

In August 2020, the social media platform Snapchat announced it would develop new tools to allow its users to register to vote, including a partnership with BallotReady that would provide Snapchat users with comprehensive sample ballots and information on voting options such as early voting and vote-by-mail. Additionally, Snapchat announced a partnership with TurboVote, a project of Democracy Works, a non-profit that promotes the use of technology to increase voter engagement largely funded by left-of-center private foundations. [10]

People

Alex Niemczewski

Before founding BallotReady, Alex Niemczewski taught coding at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago and The Starter League, a coding bootcamp based in Chicago, Illinois. [11] [12]

Aviva Rosman

Before founding BallotReady, Aviva Rosman taught high school math, and worked in special education as a corps member of Teach for America. [13]

References

  1. Morgan, Billy. “BallotReady Co-Founder Aviva Rosman AB ’10, MPP ’16 on the Power of Data, the Millennial Vote, and Expanding to All 50 States.” The University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy. November 2, 2018. Accessed August 31, 2020.https://harris.uchicago.edu/news-events/news/ballotready-co-founder-aviva-rosman-ab-10-mpp-16-power-data-millennial-vote-and ^
  2. “Social New Venture Challenge.” Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation. Accessed August 31, 2020. https://www.chicagobooth.edu/research/rustandy/what-we-do/social-entrepreneurship-programs/snvc ^
  3. “About Us.” BallotReady. Accessed August 31, 2020.https://about.ballotready.org/about-us ^
  4. Morgan, Billy. “BallotReady Co-Founder Aviva Rosman AB ’10, MPP ’16 on the Power of Data, the Millennial Vote, and Expanding to All 50 States.” The University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy. November 2, 2018. Accessed August 31, 2020.https://harris.uchicago.edu/news-events/news/ballotready-co-founder-aviva-rosman-ab-10-mpp-16-power-data-millennial-vote-and ^
  5. “Social New Venture Challenge.” Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation. Accessed August 31, 2020. https://www.chicagobooth.edu/research/rustandy/what-we-do/social-entrepreneurship-programs/snvc ^
  6. Morgan, Billy. “BallotReady Co-Founder Aviva Rosman AB ’10, MPP ’16 on the Power of Data, the Millennial Vote, and Expanding to All 50 States.” The University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy. November 2, 2018. Accessed August 31, 2020.https://harris.uchicago.edu/news-events/news/ballotready-co-founder-aviva-rosman-ab-10-mpp-16-power-data-millennial-vote-and ^
  7. “Social New Venture Challenge.” Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation. Accessed August 31, 2020. https://www.chicagobooth.edu/research/rustandy/what-we-do/social-entrepreneurship-programs/snvc ^
  8. “About Us.” BallotReady. Accessed August 31, 2020.https://about.ballotready.org/about-us ^
  9. Morgan, Billy. “BallotReady Co-Founder Aviva Rosman AB ’10, MPP ’16 on the Power of Data, the Millennial Vote, and Expanding to All 50 States.” The University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy. November 2, 2018. Accessed August 31, 2020.https://harris.uchicago.edu/news-events/news/ballotready-co-founder-aviva-rosman-ab-10-mpp-16-power-data-millennial-vote-and ^
  10. Janfaza, Rachel. “Snapchat announces tools to increase youth voter engagement.” CNN. August 6, 2020. Accessed August 31, 2020.https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/06/politics/snapchat-voting-tools/index.html ^
  11. “Starter League.” Bloc: Find My Bootcamp. Accessed August 31, 2020.https://www.bloc.io/learn-to-code/bc/starter-league ^
  12. “Alex Niemczewski.” Chicago Ideas. Accessed August 31, 2020.https://www.chicagoideas.com/speakers/alex-niemczewski ^
  13. “Aviva Rosman.” Education Post. Accessed August 31, 2020.https://educationpost.org/network/aviva-rosman/ ^
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BallotReady


Chicago, IL