Please note that all submitters must hold valid US citizenship.
The 2020 Presidential Election has been remarkable in many ways. One of the most significant things about this election is that it enjoyed the highest level of voter participation since the 1908 election, with nearly two-thirds of eligible Americans exercising their right to vote. This level of voter engagement is fantastic. Several factors contributed to this level of voter turnout, key among them is that presidential elections always have higher voter participation rates than local elections.
The Jack Brooks Foundation (JBF) wants every election - including presidential, state, and local - to have high levels of voter participation and engagement. JBF is sponsoring the Help America Vote Challenge to gather your non-partisan ideas for how to improve voter turnout. We aspire to have the voter turnout in the 2020 election represent the new baseline. Whether you have ideas about how to improve physical accessibility, overcome different barriers to voting, streamline the voter registration process, or any other aspect of improving voter participation rates, we would like to hear from you.
We’ve just experienced a historic election. How can we maintain, and even build, on this momentum so that every election has a similar level of engagement? Did you see or experience something that could be implemented more broadly, changed, or improved upon to sustain these voter participation rates? JBF wants more Americans to exercise their constitutional right to vote. If you are a US citizen and you have an idea to improve voter participation - regardless of your political affiliation, we invite you to be heard.
Engaged and informed citizens are key to a healthy democracy. However, if people encounter barriers to voting, that enthusiasm can be lost. JBF seeks proposals that identify viable solutions to improve The Voting Process to increase voter turnout.
Engaged and informed citizens are key to a healthy democracy. However, if these individuals encounter barriers to voting, participation in the process can suffer. JBF seeks proposals that identify viable solutions to improve the voting experience.
According to the Pew Research Center, the United States of America lags in voter participation. The first step to participation in The Voting Process is registration. In 2016, only 64% of the US voting-age population was registered, compared to 90% in Canada. The actual voter turnout rate in the United States is around 50%, substantially lower than other countries, like Belgium, where 90% of registered voters cast ballots. The US ranks 26 out of 32 highly developed, democratic countries for voter turnout.
Voter turnout is influenced by many different factors. One factor is geography - voter turnout can vary widely based on location. More than 60% of voters participated in the 2018 midterm elections in western states like Colorado, Minnesota, and Montana. But only 40% did so in the southeast region: Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia. Voter turnout in the state of Hawaii was less than 40%. Other factors affecting voter turnout include:
Gender - Women tend to vote more often than men
Age - Older individuals tend to vote more often than younger ones
Education - Individuals with a college degree tend to vote more often than those without a degree
Socioeconomic status - White-collar workers tend to vote more often than blue-collar workers
The Jack Brooks Foundation seeks to improve the ease with which Americans engage in the political process. The mission of the Foundation, named after the 21-term congressman from Texas, is to “empower the American electorate” with effective non-partisan methods to improve voter turnout. The ultimate goal is to consistently raise voter turnout in every election.
Through this challenge, JBF hopes to identify voting obstacles and how they can be overcome. JBF believes that American democracy will be strengthened by having more voters engaged in the process of choosing their leaders, at all levels of government.
Individuals and organizations from across the country are invited to submit their proposals that identify barriers or obstacles to voter participation and suggest changes and innovations that could be implemented to overcome said barriers and improve voter turnout at the polls.
Potential approaches of interest include but are not limited to:
Efforts to reduce wait times at polling stations
Advanced voting technologies
Improved ballot communication approaches
Streamlined voter registration processes
Voter registration drives based on social sciences
Approaches of all maturity levels are of interest to JBF, from initial ideas to tested programs. Proposals should present compelling evidence and/or sound reasoning of expected effectiveness.
The Jack Brooks Foundation is committed to the idea that increased voter participation is beneficial to this country, regardless of the voter’s political affiliation and preferences. As such, all proposals must be non-partisan in nature and scope and must be submitted by US citizens. Any proposal which intentionally favors a particular political party will be excluded from consideration in this challenge.
Submissions should include detailed information regarding:
Identification of the obstacle to voter participation and how the proposed approach will reduce or eliminate it
Discussion of the group affected by the obstacle and a description of how the proposed approach will impact that group
A description of the process to implement the proposed approach
A timeline for deployment (if the proposed approach is not already in use)
Respondents are encouraged, but not required, to include a short, five-minute video presentation describing the proposed approach (an opportunity to include a link to an online video will be included in the response form).
A total of up to $15,000 US will be distributed to the top three respondents:
Grand Prize: $7,500 US
Second Prize: $5,000 US
Third Prize: $2,500 US
The Jack Brooks Foundation may also use submissions to identify potential collaboration partners following the conclusion of the Challenge.
Open to submissions - September 8, 2020
Submission deadline - March 12, 2021, 5pm EST
Judging - March 13, 2021 to April 9, 2021
Winners Announced - April 21, 2021
How do I win?
To be eligible for an award, your proposal must, at a minimum:
Satisfy the Judging Scorecard requirements
Thoughtfully address the Submission Form questions
Be non-partisan in nature and in scope. Any proposal which favors a particular political party will be excluded from consideration in this challenge.
Be submitted by a citizen of the United States of America
To what extent does the respondent expect voter engagement to increase (either in a specific audience or in the voting populace in general)?
What evidence is provided to demonstrate the anticipated impact?
How likely is it that the proposed approach can be implemented locally, regionally, or nationally?
Does the respondent provide evidence or adequate description of how the approach may be scaled?
Quality of the proposed approach
Is this approach feasible and well-reasoned?
Is it likely to be successful if implemented?
What evidence does the respondent provide to demonstrate that the proposed approach would be effective in the US?
How creative is the proposed approach? Does it represent a new approach or one not widely used currently?
Does the submitter effectively communicate the barrier(s) in question and how it impacts the target group?
Is the barrier identified by the submitter a valid one?
The challenge is open to all adult individuals, private teams, public teams, and collegiate teams. All submitters must hold valid US citizenship. Submissions must be made in English. All challenge-related communication will be in English.
No specific qualifications or expertise is required. Prize organizers encourage outside individuals and non-expert teams to compete and propose new solutions.
Submissions must be made online (only), via upload to the HeroX.com website, on or before 5:00pm EST on March 12, 2021. No late submissions will be accepted.
Intellectual Property Rights:
As detailed in the Challenge-Specific Agreement – By entering, Innovator agrees that: (i) all Submissions become Challenge Sponsor's property and will not be returned; and (ii) Challenge Sponsor and its licensees, successors and assignees have the right to use any and all Submissions, and the names, likenesses, voices and images of all persons appearing in the Submission, for future advertising, promotion and publicity in any manner and in any medium now known or hereafter devised throughout the world in perpetuity.
All Intellectual property rights, if any, in the idea, concept, or activities demonstrated by the Submission will remain with the Innovator. The Innovator retains ownership of the Submission.
By participating in the challenge, each competitor agrees to submit only their original idea. Any indication of "copying" amongst competitors is grounds for disqualification.
All applications will go through a process of due diligence; any application found to be misrepresentative, plagiarized, or sharing an idea that is not their own will be automatically disqualified.
All ineligible applicants will be automatically removed from the competition with no recourse or reimbursement.
No purchase or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win the competition.
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Thanks to the 66.2% of eligible voters who cast a ballot last November, the 2020 US presidential election marks thehighest voter turnout in 120 years. To put that into perspective, 2020 turnout exceeded the 2008 Obama election – the second highest in modern history – by a full 5% and was 15% higher than the 1996 Clinton election, which holds the record for the lowest modern-day eligible voter turnout. While the recent rise in voter turnout is noteworthy, voter apathy still poses a significant threat to voter turnout in US presidential elections, midterms and other non-presidential elections. Despite the variable studies on the root causes of voter apathy, it’s impact on voter turnout is impossible to dismiss, making our understanding of the phenomenon pertinent to the preservation of our representative democracy.
Previous Successes in Increasing Turnout
It is useful to look at the positive statistical blips in US elections to determine whether any other causal factors can be identified. Aside from the 2020 presidential election, previous modern-day high turnout years have included the 2008 (Obama) and 1960 (JFK) presidential elections, and 1994 (Clinton) and 2010 (Obama) midterm elections. Experts speculate that these highly competitive elections motivated voters on opposite sides of the political spectrum to cast their ballots. It’s important to note that some states report consistently higher turnout regardless of the political context, which indicates that factors other than party politics may be at work.
Is Voter Registration the Problem?
Some argue that the physical act of voting in the US is not the issue, rather it is the registration process required to cast a legal ballot. According to a2012 study, some 24% of eligible voters in the US (approximately 51 million people) have failed to register. In the US, each state has its ownregistration system, some of which are highly complex. Some studies indicate that states that adopt an easier registration process (such as day-of registration) experience increased voter turnout compared to states with more complex registration systems.Additionally, other countries with simplified or automatic voter registration processes show very high voter turnout when compared to the US. This evidence suggests that voter registration barriers may have a bigger impact on turnout than ballot box access barriers.
Call to Action
The internet is awash with statistics on elections, eligible voters and turnout rates. These facts and figures are a goldmine for solvers seeking to conduct a detailed analysis on the motivation of voters. Record setting 2020 voter turnout proved that given the right candidates and access to information, it’s possible to motivate voters to cast their ballots. However, it is also clear that individual voter circumstances, differing state registration processes, the political environment and global economics all have an impact. TheHelp America Vote Challenge is seeking new and innovative initiatives to improve voter participation. From eliminating barriers faced during the registration process to tackling obstacles faced at polling locations, your ideas could improve voter turnout and have a lasting impact on democracy in the US.
Remember, the final submission deadline is March 12th at 5:00 pm ET Eastern Time (New York/USA). No submissions received after this time will be accepted, so make sure to get yours in as soon as possible. Any last-minute questions or concerns can go right in the comments section of this update.