Voters can look forward to a more refined and just democratic system thanks to an audacious idea from a Black woman founder.
Thanks to TED, in 2018, The Audacious Project was born as an initiative to support changemakers that are lighting a path toward a better future. According to the official website, over $900 million has been distributed to nine projects over the course of a year to bold leaders and philanthropic organizations who understand the value of gathering large dollars to create long-term changes.
Among the recipients is Tiana Epps-Johnson, a co-founder and executive director of the Center for Tech and Civic Life. In April, Johnson shared during TED 2022: A New Era, that $80 million will be distributed over five years to various election departments throughout the United States to restore trust in our democracy is accessible and to support elected officials.
The Work Continues
The new funding will be distributed through a new program established by the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL). The election reform agency organization previously received $350 million in funding from Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan in 2020 to preserve the voting infrastructure during the pandemic, according to Influence Watch. The generous donation launched “Zuck bucks” in the form of grants supporting 2,500 communities across the country which helped to purchase personal protective equipment, pay for cleaning expenses, and hire new poll workers for the vulnerable population.
Providing Resources To Election Departments
Johnson told AfroTech exclusively that the CTCL — co-founded alongside Donny Bridges and Whitney May — is aiming to provide basic technologies and training for officials to operate in their roles efficiently. The resources will create a more improved and secure voter process. The changes will be made possible under CTCL’s new brainchild the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence.
“We’re fortunate that we have the county and local officials who are public servants that care about doing a great job for voters and care about a process that works for everybody. These folks are doing work without the resources. They need to be effective,” Johnson said to AfroTech.
She continued: “We know there are election departments in all types of communities that don’t have the basic technology they need to keep the process secure and to be able to make decisions so that we don’t end up having lines that people have to wait in that stake out of polling places. Our work at the center is focused on how we can make sure no matter what community you live in, your government is ready to provide access to democracy in a way that truly works for every voter.”
Communities Of Color Will Be Empowered
The efforts of the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence will build a more hopeful system projected to bolster cybersecurity, combat disinformation, and keep voters safe. Equally a priority will be to empower communities of color who oftentimes face hurdles throughout the voting season which can disrupt participation in elections locally and nationally. The U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence will be working to combat these obstacles by providing solutions for citizens to exercise their voting rights.
“At the Center for Tech and Civic Life, we think about a handful of priority communities for folks that have been pushed to the margins of our voting process, but just like anyone else have the rights to full citizenship and the right to be able to express themselves and be a part of making decisions about the future of our country,” Johnson said.
“Everything that we work on, whether we’re developing training on how to communicate effectively with voters, or helping to support election departments with funding so that they can have the monetary resources they need for a smooth process — we are holding close thinking about all of those different communities and all of those different types of folks who generally are not receiving the same type of invitation to the process.”
The U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence Is What The Nation Needs Right Now
For Epps-Johnson, the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence will be a reflection of what is needed within the nation as it looks ahead.
“Now that we are launching the U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence, it is the next phase of what we do need at this moment and how we can show up with the right tools,” Johnson said. “We’re going to be working to make sure that no elected official has to use technology that runs on Windows 7. We’re going to be doing work so that right now, where election officials are getting targeted and harassed, they have a community that includes each other and other folks that care about their wellbeing and about their success there that have their backs.”