[Images courtesy of Network Solutions]
[UPDATE: I have edited this post to clarify the services the Cost of Freedom Project seeks to offer.]
Got my mind on my money and money on my mind ...
Brian Newby's latest post over at ElectionDiary paints a picture of "fuzzy but depressing math" - specifically, that funding for the election office has been cut (on a percentage basis) more than any other department in his county. As a result, with pending retirements in his office in 2013, Brian concludes that he's one "poorly timed illness away from disaster".
To his credit, Brian is quick to recognize those individuals and companies who have stepped up to assist his office with key tasks like outreach for pennies on the dollar, but as funding continues to to shrink election administrators may need to look to other sources to get the job done.
One promising source is the new trend of crowd-financed projects, where individuals or groups with a good idea make their case for a necessary service and reach out directly to potential donors for the funds to make their ideas a reality. Two prime examples that have popped up on my radar recently are definitely worth a look:
Design maven Dana Chisnell and her colleagues have launched a Kickstarter project for Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent, which they say will
publish a series of field guides -- each one will hold brilliantly researched, guideline gems and examples about a specific and far-too-common ballot design problem. The form factor is designed for the busy county election official to pick up and within minutes learn useful, field-researched, critical ballot design techniques that help ensure that every vote is cast as voters intend.
Dana and her colleagues have six weeks to raise a minimum of $15,000. Learn more here.
Activist Faye Anderson seeks to tackle another high-value task. Her Cost of Freedom Project aims to use web and text-based apps to help voters who need to obtain a photo ID for voting.
The Cost of Freedom App is scheduled to launch on April 4, 2012 and will "cut through the confusion and quickly provide citizens with information on how to apply for a photo ID which they must show in order to vote."
Faye's project is seeking a minimum of $10,000 in the next 25 days for its efforts; more details can be found on the project's Start Some Good page here.
Projects like these are an encouraging response to the very real gap between what the community seeks from its election system and what that system can afford to provide. They won't necessarily eliminating the "fuzzy but depressing math" Brian Newby describes but it does suggest the possibility for election officials to look beyond the appropriation process for the money they need to make democracy work.