Other Group

Ballot Scout

Founded:

2015

Project Manager:

Monica Crane Childers

Ballot Scout is a service that allows absentee or mail-in voters to track their ballot’s progress through the postal service and see whether it reached an election office. According to its website, Ballot Scout was developed with input from election officers and in partnership with the United States Postal Service and state governments. While Ballot Scout positions itself as a non-partisan resource, a significant portion of its funding comes from TurboVote, a project of Democracy Works that provides grants to organizations that prioritize voter registration and mobilization within communities likely to vote for left-of-center candidates and policies. [1]

Parent Organization

Ballot Scout is a project of Democracy Works, a grantmaking organization that funds services that provide information on candidates and encourage voter turnout in communities traditionally aligned with the Democratic Party. Democracy Works supports activists and policymakers who “want to change the voting experience” and urges them to “collaborate with the people on the front lines—election officials.” The organization also claims that election administrators “don’t have the tools they need” and that Ballot Scout, along with the associated mail-in ballot issue reporting website ElectionMail.org, will provide these tools. [2]

Institutional Backers

Democracy Works is a member of the Bridge Alliance, a coalition of activist groups that support programs and policies that would benefit Democratic voters and political campaigns. With an annual budget of more than $4 million, Democracy Works receives funding from leading left-of-center grant makers such as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. [3]

The Democracy Fund has also endorsed both Ballot Scout and ElectionMail.org as means for donors to get involved in American elections, ostensibly in order to support the Postal Service and ensure the broadest possible implementation of and access to mail-in and absentee ballots. In addition to the full range of options to vote by mail, the Democracy Fund supports the practice of providing ballot drop-off boxes and expanding their availability. [4]

The United States Election Assistance Commission, the government agency charged with facilitating elections, has collaborated with Ballot Scout’s parent organization: during the 2016 election cycle, the commission released an online presentation that featured Monica Crane Childers, at the time the government services director of Democracy Works. [5] Childers is now the vice president of labs at Democracy Works. Her work includes managing both the Ballot Scout and ElectionMail projects. [6]

Ballot Scout is endorsed by the Center for Tech and Civic Life, an activist group funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg that received media and public attention during the 2020 election cycle for its efforts to channel funds from left-of-center grant makers to state and local election authorities. In January 2020, the center released an online seminar aimed at election officials that promoted both Ballot Scout and ElectionMail. The center cited the COVID-19 pandemic in its appeal for election officials to expand mail-in and absentee voting. [7]

References

  1. Tammy Patrick. “2017 Lessons Can Improve The Vote-By-Mail Experience In 2018.” Democracy Fund. May 14, 2018. Accessed April 11, 2022. https://democracyfund.org/idea/2017-lessons-can-improve-the-vote-by-mail-experience-in-2018/ ^
  2. “Supporting Election Officials.” Democracy Works. Accessed April 11, 2022. https://www.democracy.works/support-for-election-officials ^
  3. “Ballot Scout.” Democracy Works. Accessed April 11, 2022. https://www.democracy.works/ballot-scout ^
  4. Tammy Patrick. “2017 Lessons Can Improve The Vote-By-Mail Experience In 2018.” Democracy Fund. May 14, 2018. Accessed April 11, 2022. https://democracyfund.org/idea/2017-lessons-can-improve-the-vote-by-mail-experience-in-2018/ ^
  5. “NASED Winter Meeting 2016.” United States Election Assistance Commission. Accessed April 11, 2022. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a665c98017db2b60bc22084/t/5adbe8b1575d1f52aa944004/1524361396117/EAC_NASED_2016.pdf ^
  6. “Making Every Vote Count: A Practical Guide to Risk-Limiting Audits.” William J. Brennan Center for Justice. January 31, 2019. Accessed April 11, 2022. https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/events/V1%20RLA%20Program%20%28final%29.pdf ^
  7. “Watch Now: Free Vote at Home Webinars for Election Officials.” Center for Tech and Civic Life. January 6, 2020. Accessed April 11, 2022. https://www.techandciviclife.org/vote-at-home/ ^
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