PagerDuty Blog

Democracy Works: Helping Americans Vote, No Matter What

Engaging voters has always been high on election officials’ agendas, but in the critical election year of 2020, COVID-19 made voter outreach even more of a priority. Social distancing guidelines caused concerns about how Americans could safely vote, resulting in many states expanding their available voting methods in remarkably short timeframes. In 2020, the phrase “how to vote” was searched more than any other time in Google Trends history. And it’s not just a case of ensuring that citizens can cast their ballot. The security of election infrastructure dominated news cycles, making it even more crucial that misinformation was tackled head-on.

To increase civic participation, nonprofit organization Democracy Works streamlines the voting experience for voters and election administrators. Its tool, TurboVote, provides voters with the information and assistance they need to register and vote. In 2020, TurboVote sent over 68 million personalized text and email reminders about how, when, and where to vote to more than 10.3 million U.S. voters.

Combating Misinformation in Real Time

Emily Knies, Development Manager at Democracy Works, helps with fundraising for the organization. She brings supporters into the fold while communicating the organization’s impact and vision for improving democracy and reliable voter access. As she notes, there’s never been a greater need to streamline the voting process. “High [voter] turnout allows the nation’s voice to be more representative of the people in our country and that leads to a healthier democracy,” she said. “But while we saw a 7% increase in voter turnout in the November 2020 election, there’s still more to be done. During the election, we also saw how misinformation can hinder Americans from making their voices heard.”

One particular example Emily points to was the use of billboards claiming that voting in the General Election concluded on November 4th—one day late. “As a mission-driven organization, we focus on how we can suppress that suppression,” Knies shared. “While high turnout is always something to be celebrated, it must be viewed through the lens of racial equality and battling misinformation. At Democracy Works, we do our part by ensuring that correct voting information can be accessed in real time by anyone around the clock.”

Ensuring 24/7 Access for All

Both TurboVote and the Voting Information Project (a Democracy Works tool that uplifts the most up-to-date voting information from all 50 states) are 24-hour services. As Knies stated, if these tools become inaccessible, it would potentially disenfranchise millions of voters. “Access to these critical services is make-or-break. If they were to go down, voters would have to search for information on their own, which can be confusing and unreliable.”

This is why Democracy Works relies on PagerDuty to help mitigate disruptions. In addition to being a PagerDuty customer, Democracy Works is also a grantee of, PagerDuty’s social impact arm that works with mission-driven organizations to advance justice and health through an integrated approach that mobilizes funds, people, and voice. Democracy Works uses PagerDuty to manage its on-call schedules, allowing its teams to respond to incidents rapidly. And it was during the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, that PagerDuty became indispensable to Democracy Works’ operations.

“PagerDuty was essential to the work that we did during the pandemic,” Knies continued. “It enabled our team to stay on top of changes across thousands of jurisdictions, polling stations, and rules throughout the election cycle. During the peak of the pandemic, election related dates, deadlines, and rules were continuously shifting. Collecting and surfacing these updates required strengthened quality control. That’s where PagerDuty is crucial to our overall success—it helps ensure that our data remains updated as changes occur by bringing all incidents to our immediate attention.”

By enabling teams to communicate with each other to isolate and resolve incidents immediately, PagerDuty helps Democracy Works to ensure voters have all the information they need—whatever the time of day—to successfully and confidently cast their ballots.“PagerDuty allows us to build trust with our users and subscribers who rely on our services to help them vote,” said Knies. “As we continue to reach more and more voters, that trust remains crucial.”

Democracy Never Sleeps

Looking ahead, Democracy Works plans to further increase voter participation in a diverse cross-section of the U.S. population. Knies said that, during the next federal presidential cycle, the organization’s goal is to expand its reach with disenfranchised voters, which will help make our democracy a truly representative one. “We really believe reaching this goal will lead to a healthier democracy; a democracy where all voters can make their voices heard and have their votes counted. Even during times when national elections aren’t happening, it’s critical that people have access to accurate information about local and state level elections.”

This is a vision we share at PagerDuty. Our work around advocating for voter engagement, including giving employees paid time off (PTO) to vote and engage in non-partisan vote activation, means we’re especially pleased to be working with Democracy Works. Democracy never sleeps‚ and digital operations doesn’t sleep either.

Find out how nonprofits and B Corps can accelerate their work and reach with our Impact Pricing and COVID-19 Response Pricing. You can also hear Democracy Works’ Founder Seth Flaxman’s panel discussion at last year’s PagerDuty Summit here.