This November, there is new way for DC residents to participate in the political process. The Observe DC initiative is piloting the first “sample-based” election observation to independently analyze how elections are administered in the District.
Trained volunteer observers (it could be you!) will deploy to randomly sampled polling places across DC’s eight wards to collect data on key electoral processes throughout the day, including polling station set-up, access for disabled voters, voter identification practices, and secrecy of the vote.
Data from observers will be rapidly collected and transmitted to a central call center throughout election day and analyzed to produce concrete findings about the quality of the elections in the District.
The initiative is being led by Ben Mindes, a resident of Columbia Heights, and a second year graduate student at Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy. ObserveDC is funded by Georgetown University’s Baker Center for Leadership and Governance.
"We are piloting the first nonpartisan, sample-based election observation effort in DC’s history," Ben said. "This effort provides the first independent analysis of how elections are run in the District and offers citizens with a new way of engaging the election process that isn't GOTV, phone-banking, etc. This pilot will hopefully serve as an example for jurisdictions around the country that may lack trust in the electoral processes to put on similar efforts in future elections."
This pilot activity takes an election observation methodology that has been used by citizen groups throughout the world for over 20 years, and introduces it to the US context. Data collected from this effort will allow the DC Board of Elections to pursue electoral reforms, based for the first time, on independent and statistically representative data.
"This is an opportunity for citizens in the Petworth community and all over DC to provide a level of electoral oversight that is standard around the world, but still new to the United States," Ben said. "It's a great chance for members of a community to determine how elections are being administered in their own backyard and use that information to improve the election experience for everyone."
Outside of the District, this effort will demonstrate the feasibility of injecting election observation methodology to other electoral jurisdictions in the United States where citizens may not be as confident in the quality of election administration or electoral processes more broadly.
You can volunteer as an observer or call center operator and help keep DC's vote legit.