Like a lot of us, the Knight Foundation would like to improve the American election process.
Except they are putting up $3.2 million to do so.
That’s the amount announced today to support 22 projects designed to stimulate civic participation and information as we approach the 2016 national elections.
This is the first time the Foundation has funneled election-related funding through its News Challenge. Previous funding for election-related studies has come through other Foundation channels.
The News Challenge is a collaboration between Knight and three other foundations — the Democracy Fund and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which each contributed $250,000, and the Rita Allen Foundation, which provided $150,000.
Ten of the projects were funded for $150,000 or more and are expected to last about 18 months. This was considered sufficient “to build a product and get it out into the field,” Knight vice president for media innovation John Bracken told me.
The other dozen are six-month prototype projects, funded at about $35,000 each from the Knight Prototype Fund. At the end of the project period, Bracken said, the Foundation will review the projects and will consider “doubling down” with more funding.
None of the projects guaranteed they would continue past the initial funding. But Bracken noted that several involve long-standing organizations, including AP and the Center for Responsive Politics, so those projects could become permanent parts of their operations. Other projects might spark new companies or organizations.
All of the recipients are nonprofits except for two: the Orlando Sentinel and the Des Moines Register. (The AP news service is actually a nonprofit.)
Here are the winners, with Knight Foundation descriptions. The 18-month projects are first, followed by the 6-month prototypes:
Vote-by-Smartphone by Long Distance Voter $325,000 San Francisco
Making it easier to vote by mail by using mobile technology to allow voters to request absentee ballots with their smartphone.
The Next Generation Beyond Exit Polls by The Associated Press $250,000 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.
2016 Political Ad Tracker by Internet Archive $200,000 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 Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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.
Inside the 990 Treasure Trove by The Center for Responsive Politics $525,000 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 the Marshall-Wythe Law Foundation $230,000 Richmond, Virginia
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 the Youth Outreach Adolescent Community Awareness Program $250,000 Philadelphia
Engaging black men in elections by recruiting barbers in predominantly African-American communities to disseminate nonpartisan information and resources on voting.
Civic Data Coalition by Investigative Reporters and Editors $250,000 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 the Center for Technology and Civic Life $400,000 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 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 an absentee ballot, and receive election reminders — with local guides and candidate information from E.thePeople.
Accessible Voting for Everyone by University of Florida | Project lead: Juan Gilbert, Gainesville, Florida
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, 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 and John Keefe, 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, 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, Providence, Rhode Island
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, and Brian Carver, Berkeley, California
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, 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 | Project lead: Young Mie Kim, Madison, Wisconsin
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, and Andrew Gibson, Orlando, Florida
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, 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, 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, Berkeley, California
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.