[Image via techandciviclife]

The Center for Tech and Civic Life is moving beyond technical assistance to local election offices to embrace the role of funder, announcing recently that it would make grants to five Wisconsin cities for work on a Wisconsin Safe Voting Plan in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s CTCL’s announcement:

On July 6, the mayors of Wisconsin’s five largest cities announced they secured $6.3 million in grant funds from Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) to support election administration in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grants, awarded to the cities of Green Bay, Kenosha, Madison, Milwaukee, and Racine, will be used to implement the Wisconsin Safe Voting Plan — a vision for a safe, inclusive, and secure voting process in 2020 elections.

“This year, election departments are facing an unprecedented challenge of administering safe and secure elections that provide healthy voting options to the public,” said Center for Tech and Civic Life Executive Director, Tiana Epps-Johnson.  “To meet this challenge, CTCL is providing support to Wisconsin election officials so no voter is required to make a choice between their health and their ability to vote. From ensuring that polling places are open and following the latest public health guidelines, to providing options for voters to easily and securely return absentee ballots, to making certain that the incredible people who step up to serve as poll workers are protected and well compensated for their service, we’re proud to partner with the five largest cities in Wisconsin to deliver a smooth voting process that inspires confidence.”

While experts estimate it will take ~$4 billion in funding to successfully administer 2020 elections, Congress has allocated $400 million to date.

“Through an extraordinary effort, Madison was able to pull off a safe election in April, but we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars we hadn’t budgeted doing so,” said Madison Mayor, Satya Rhodes-Conway.  “As we have seen in Wisconsin and across the nation, COVID-19 is not gone; in fact it’s getting worse in some places. If we are going to meet our obligations as elected leaders to ensure the safe administration of elections during this pandemic, we have to think differently and bring in help where we can. These valuable resources will go a long way to running successful elections this year.“

Summary of grants

Total by municipality

• City of Milwaukee: $2,154,500
• City of Madison: $1,271,788
• City of Green Bay: $1,093,400
• City of Kenosha: $862,779
• City of Racine: $942,100

Total by use

Support Early In-Person Voting and Vote by Mail: $2,572,839
Expand the number of in-person Early Voting sites (including Curbside Voting).  Provide assistance to help voters comply with absentee ballot requests and certification requirements.  Utilize secure drop-boxes to facilitate return of absentee ballots.  Deploy additional staff and/or technology improvements to expedite and improve accuracy of absentee ballot processing.

Launch Poll Worker Recruitment, Training & Safety Efforts:     $1,810,028
Recruit and hire a sufficient number of  poll workers and inspectors to ensure poll sites properly staffed during virus outbreak, utilizing hazard pay where required. Provide voting facilities with funds to compensate for increased site cleaning and sanitization costs.  Provide updated training for current and new poll workers administering elections in midst of pandemic.

Ensure Safe, Efficient Election Day Administration $876,700
Procure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and personal disinfectant to protect election officials and voters from coronavirus. Support and expand drive-thru voting on election day, including covering additional unbudgeted expenses for signage, tents, traffic control, and safety measures.

Expand Voter Education & Outreach Efforts: $1,065,000
Outreach to remind voters to verify and update their address, or other voter registration information, prior to the election.

These grants – and the entire plan – are a significant step toward not only in helping these cities pull off the 2020 election but also learning and sharing more about how to make voting safe in the uncertain environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Congratulations to Tiana, Whitney May and everyone at CTCL for stepping up and making this investment – it’s exciting to see the organization continue its growth as one of the election community’s national leaders. Stay tuned …