This month, we sat down with Kate Davis of BluePrint Kansas to learn more about KsVotes.org, their innovative online voter registration project.
KVD: Why did you create KSVotes.org?
KHF: We knew voter registration and turnout were significant problems in the state of Kansas — young people and people of color are disproportionately underrepresented in the state, both on voter registration lists and at the ballot box. When we started to build a non-profit in 2017 to address voter registration, participation, and fair representation, we wanted to determine what technical or data solutions may exist for the problems that were being experienced by the dedicated people who have been working on this for a long time.
We partnered with Jake Lowen and Joshua Mitchell of GPS Impact, with help and input from Loud Light and the League of Women Voters, to build KSVotes.org — a simple, mobile-friendly, easy-to-use way to register to vote completely online. We got the site up 6 days before the registration deadline in 2017 and processed 234 registrations before the deadline.
Through the work of some terrific partners, word of the site spread, and by the registration deadline in October of 2018, we had processed over 23,500 registrations. In September of 2018 we launched KSVotes version 2, which added Spanish-language support, advance ballot applications (online for the first time in state history), and other improvements.
How does online registration through the site work?
In a paper-based voter registration drive, someone fills out a paper voter registration application and the organization running the drive delivers it to the election office. With KSVotes, we essentially do the same thing, but in electronic form.
The voter completes the fields for the voter registration form and signs with their finger on a touch-screen device; then submits the form, which gets emailed to their county elections office (with the voter also receiving a copy via BCC). Then the county elections officer processes the registration. Because it’s done electronically, the accuracy is significantly improved: typed names and birthdates are much easier for data entry than handwritten ones.
We have an extraordinarily high success rate — once you correct for attempts from out-of-state, or other ineligibility issues, we have over a 95% rate of our registrants being on voter registration lists.
Did you experience any resistance from state or local officials?
Our local county elections officials are incredibly hard-working, and it’s core to our approach that we want to make life easier, not harder for them. Generally speaking, their responses to the site have ranged from accepting to enthusiastic.
Have you noticed any interesting data points since launching the site?
While registrations on KSVotes mostly took place in the population centers of our state, we have actually been able to register voters in every county in Kansas.
Not only have we registered thousands of people to vote in the state, for the 2018 general election we saw higher turnout rates for KSVotes registrants compared to statewide voter turnout.