TrustTheVote’s Next Steps in Online Voter Registration Technology
In this New Year, there are so many new opportunties for election tech work that our collective TrustTheVote head is spinning. But this week anyway, we’re focused on next steps in our online voter registration (OVR) work — planning sessions last week, meetings with state election officials this week, and I hope as a result, a specific plan of action on what we call will “Rocky 4”.
To refresh readers’ memory, Rocky is the OVR system that spans several organizations:
- At OSDV, we developed and maintain the Rocky core software;
- RockTheVote adopted and continues to adopt extensions to it;
- RockTheVote also adapts the Rocky technology to its operational environment (more on that below, with private-label and API);
- Open Source Labs operates Rocky’s production system, and a build and test environment for new software releases;
- Several NGOs that are RockTheVote partners also use Rocky as their own OVR system, essentially working with RTV as a public service (no fees!) provider of OVR as an open-source application-as-a-service;
- For a growing list of states that do OVR, Rocky integrates with the state OVR system, to deliver to it the users that RTV and these various other NGOs have connected to online a a result of outreach efforts.
With that recap in mind, I want to highlight some of the accomplishments that this collective of organizations achieved in 2012, and paved the way for more cool stuff in 2013.
- All told, this group effort resulted in over a million — 1,058,994 — voter registration applications completed.
- Dozens of partner organizations used Rocky to register their constituents, with the largest and most active being Long Distance Voter.
- We launched a private-label capability in Rocky (more below) that was used for the first time this summer, and the top 3 out of 10 private-label partners registered about 84,000 voters in the first-time use of this new Rocky feature, in a period of about 12 weeks.
- We launched an API in Rocky (more below), and the early adopter organizations registered about 20,000 voters.
That’s what I call solid work, with innovative election technology delivering substantial public benefit.
Lastly, to set the stage for upcoming news about what 2013 holds, let me briefly explain 2 of the new technologies in 2012, because they’re the basis for work in 2013. Now, from the very beginning of Rocky over 3 years ago, there was a feature called “partner support” where a a 3rd party organization could do a little co-branding in the Rocky application, get a URL that they could use to direct their users to Rocky (where the users would see the 3rd party org’s logo), and all the resulting registration activity’s stats would be available to the 3rd party org.
The Rocky API – But suppose that you’re in an organization that has not just its own web site, but a substantial in-house web application? Suppose that you want your web application to do the user interaction (UI)? Well, the Rocky Application Programming Interface (API) is for just that. Your application do all the UI stuff, and when it’s time to create a PDF for the voter to download, print, sign, and mail, your web app calls the Rocky API to request that, and get the results back. (There’s an analogous workflow for integrating the state OVR systems for paperless online registration.) The Rocky backend does all the database work, PDF generation, state integration, stats, reporting, and the API also allows you to pull back stats if you don’t want to manually use the Partners’ web interface of Rocky.
Rocky Private Label – But suppose instead that you want something like that, but you don’t actually want to run your own web application. Instead, you want a version of Rocky that’s customized to look like a web property of your organization, even though it is operated by RockTheVote. That’s what the private-label feature set is for. To get an idea of what it looks like, check out University of CA Student Association’s private-label UI on Rocky, here.
That’s the quick run-down on what we accomplished with Rocky in 2012, and some of the enabling technology for that. I didn’t talk much about integration with state OVR systems, because enhancements to the 2012 “training wheels” is part of what we’re up to now — so more on that to come RSN.
And on behalf of all my colleagues in the TrustTheVote Project and at the OSDV Foundation, I want to thank RockTheVote, Open Source Labs, all the RTV partners, and last but not least several staff at state election offices, for making 2012 a very productive year in the OVR part of OSDV’s work.