connect / 2016

Open Ballot LA

Open Ballot LA

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by University of Southern California

Helping Los Angeles develop the most accessible and inclusive process of running for office anywhere in the nation.

Are any other organizations collaborating on this proposal? Going forward we expect to draw on strong working relationships with a range of contributors and potential users across government, nonprofits, tech, and academia.

Please describe your project proposal.

We’re building a new data platform that will make LA the most accessible and inclusive place to run for office anywhere in the nation. With support and guidance from local election officials, our team at USC will work to transition LA’s elected office data into a streamlined and open platform. This new database will allow users to see all available elected offices based on their address and provide crucial details such as filing windows, salaries, requirements, and competitors.

Which of the connect metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • Government responsiveness to residents’ needs
  • Participation in neighborhood councils
  • Rates of volunteerism
  • Voting rates

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to connect?

Over the last decade, 28 cities in Los Angeles County have cancelled elections for mayor or city council “because no one bothered making a challenge.” A recent Pew survey shows that those who do run for office remain disproportionately male, white, and well-educated. Only 20% of elected offices nationally are held by women, and there is only one woman on the 15-person Los Angeles City Council. Young people especially are running away from office at record rates, with 90 percent saying they would never want to serve in any of the nation’s more than 500,000 elected offices. In short, our democracy is facing a crisis of leadership that can only be solved when a larger and more diverse group of Americans runs for office.

At a time when most of the world’s information is only a click away, it is nearly impossible to find a clear and complete list of offices one is eligible to run for. This lack of basic information about how to run for office prevents the people of LA, and especially young people and other politically underrepresented groups, from being equally informed about leadership opportunities in their communities. The good news is that unlike the major structural and cultural barriers to running for office, the problem of data access is one we are equipped to solve today.

With support and guidance from LA election officials and the CA Secretary of State, our team at the University of Southern California will work within Greater Los Angeles - and ultimately in all 58 California counties - to transition our elected office data into a streamlined and open platform. The database would not only allow users to see all available elected offices based on their address, but also provide crucial details like filing windows, salaries, application requirements, and who else is running.

Primary users of this public database and API will include nonprofits like She Should Run and Veterans Campaign, which encourage and support first-time candidates. The database will also be used by technology companies like Facebook and Nationbuilder, which is already designing solutions that make it easier for their users to run for office.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

Our primary measure of success will be designing an open and accessible platform that is adopted by election officials in Los Angeles and widely used by citizens and nonprofits that advocate for more voices and choices in politics. Our long-term goal is to produce more inclusive, diverse and competitive elections, beginning with this LA pilot and then expanding across the state. Our long-term measure of success will be increasing the diversity and quantity of people running for elected offices at all levels. In the short-to-medium term, our focus is on encouraging greater local participation and more representative local democracy. Initial success will be measured in three ways:

  • First, we need support from city and county officials for a new and open platform for tracking elected office data like filing windows, salaries, application requirements, and who else is running.
  • Second, we will collect data to measure whether and how the new platform is used by individuals, nonprofits and other groups that encourage diverse and underrepresented populations to run for office.
  • Third and most importantly, we will measure whether there is an increase in the quantity and diversity of people running for elected offices in Los Angeles.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Advisors/board members
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support