The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has announced grants totaling $3.2 million to twenty-two projects aimed at providing voters with better information and increasing their participation in the election process.
Awarded through the Knight News Challenge on Elections, an initiative supported by the Democracy Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Rita Allen Foundation, many of the grants address the need to provide voters with better news and information about candidates and issues, while others focus on increasing voter engagement in the election process. Ten of the recipients will receive grants ranging between $200,000 and $525,000, while twelve will receive $35,000 each through the Knight Prototype Fund, which funds organizations with early-stage media and information ideas. "Focusing on the critical area of elections, the winners explore new ways to use data and technology to enable citizens to determine their own best interests," said John Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for media innovation.
Winning projects include the Internet Archive, which was awarded $200,000 to create a library of television news and political advertising from key 2016 primary election states and pair it with nonpartisan fact-checking and additional analysis from partner organizations; the Center for Responsive Politics, which was awarded $525,000 to help voters and journalists better understand who is funding campaigns by partnering with GuideStar to unearth comprehensive data on the sources of so-called "dark money"; and the Marshall-Wythe Law Foundation, which will receive $230,000 to help Virginians with prior felony convictions regain their voting rights.
The twelve Prototype Fund winners include public radio station WNYC, which will continue to explore ways to help people make more informed decisions about judicial elections by offering a tool that provides key information, insights, and context about candidates, their views, and the court system; the Free Law Project, which seeks to make judicial elections more transparent by creating online profiles of judges that include their biographies, judicial opinions, and campaign contributions; and the Jefferson Center, which is working to increase political engagement in Ohio.
"We applaud the Knight Foundation for leading this collaborative effort to spur new problem-solving approaches in the field of civic engagement," said Rita Allen Foundation president and CEO Elizabeth Good Christopherson. "By joining together to invest in early-stage ideas, we will amplify the potential for impact of the winning projects, spur collaboration in the field, and enable others to replicate successful approaches."