CES Updates

Request for Proposals: Approval Voting Campaign Grant

Bringing Approval Voting to America

EXTENDED DEADLINE: October 12th, 2020

Table of Contents


Following its landslide victory to enact approval voting in Fargo in 2018 and its current work to do the same in St. Louis, The Center for Election Science is excited to work with more cities across the United States of America to improve their elections. 

But, there are a number of cities facing immense problems with their elections. To assist us in our decision about which city or cities to help next, we are opening up a broad call for proposals from organizations and individuals interested in leading this charge.

This document outlines information about our organization, the types of projects we are willing to fund, the amount of funding available, and how to submit a compelling proposal. If you have questions that are not addressed in this document, we encourage you to attend one of our open houses. If you have other questions, please direct them to grants@electionscience.org.

Our History

Founded in 2011, CES is a national, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people to improve their communities by changing the way they vote. Guided by rigorous scientific review, we study and advocate for alternative voting methods that empower voters—not politicians. We conduct research and in-depth analysis of alternative voting methods and their impact at the national level. At the same time, we are a trusted backbone for grassroots activists.

There is nothing more critical to our election outcomes than the voting method. Our current method of plurality voting—which forces voters to choose only one candidate—does not allow for a robust and vibrant democracy that represents the will of the people.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We emphasize approval voting—a single-winner voting method that allows voters to choose as many candidates as they want. All votes count equally, and the candidate with the most wins. With approval voting, voters can always honestly support their favorite candidate, which impacts the entire election dynamic in crucial ways. Letting voters support all the candidates they approve  leads to more representative winners, encourages more diverse candidates to run, keeps good ideas from being unfairly marginalized, and ultimately leads to better public policy. 

Our recent accomplishments include:

  • Supported the effort to collect more than 20,000 signatures for a successful Prop D Ballot measure, exceeding the required 10,000 verified signatures and allowing for approval voting to appear on the ballot for the upcoming November 3rd general election
  • Collaborated with local activists on the campaign that led to the successful Fargo Measure 1 for approval voting. This passed with 63.5% of support in November 2018, and Fargo became the first city in the US to adopt approval voting. On June 9th, 2020, Fargo made election history with the first municipal election to use approval voting, with voters selecting an average of 2.3 candidates per ballot. Both elected candidates received more than 50% approval—fixing the city’s longtime battle with vote splitting. More than 120,000 city citizens are now benefitting from the new system.
  • Provided election consulting for ballot initiatives in five states and guided several organizations to move to approval methods—including the Texas and Ohio Green Party, Young Democrats of San Francisco, The Republican Liberty Caucus, and The Webby Awards. 

Our Goals

We want to empower as many voters across the United States with fair, representative, and just elections. Although there are many reforms that could play a role in this, we believe that voting method reform is the most proximal action connected to achieving this outcome. More specifically, we believe that approval voting is the simplest, most cost-effective reform to improve elections and voters’ lives. 

For the purposes of this RFP, we are seeking proposals for ballot initiative campaigns to implement approval voting for single-winner elections.

Our Timeline

Open House and Q&A Session: August 7th, 2020
Final pre-submission open house: September 9th, 2020
Deadline for submission: October 12th, 2020
Independent committee reviews: October/November 2020
Pitch presentations: November/December 2020
Decisions announced: January 2021

Our Budget

The total amount of funding we have available to fund projects will be determined, in part, by the success of our year-end fundraising efforts. As such, we are unable to share the exact amount that may be available at this time. But, we anticipate that it will be no less than $150,000. 

Successful proposals will receive initial grants no smaller than $5,000 and no larger than $75,000. The grant may be broken up into installments. In addition, successful proposals will receive advice and other in-kind support from CES. 

We reserve the right to fund as many or as few proposals at our discretion.

Minimum Requirements

At a minimum, all proposals must include: 

  • Campaign plan that includes:
    • A budget
    • Timeline
    • Your goals
    • Tactics to achieve those goals
    • Names of key individuals on your team and their backgrounds
  • Research results outlined in the Campaign Assessment Rubric including:
    • History of broken elections in the area
    • Legal research on state and local laws regarding approval voting and ballot measures
    • Population and signature requirements

Preferred Requirements

Applicants can make their proposals more competitive by having: 

  • Formed the appropriate type of legal entity ((c)4, ballot committee, etc.)
  • An existing list of local supporters, with contact information
  • Biographical information on key campaign supporters outside your team
  • Fundraising plan including a list of warm pledges to give
  • A deep knowledge of local history, politics, and elections
  • Legal opinions or review of the proposed initiative
  • Polling if available
  • Detailed timeline including petition deadlines, filing periods and other important dates
  • Support from local influencers (current or former politicians, media, stakeholder groups, etc.) or campaign staff
  • A compelling argument for immediate change, especially as it pertains to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion

Selection Process

Proposals will be independently reviewed by a panel of 7 individuals with various technical backgrounds selected by the CES staff. The panel will evaluate proposals based on the criteria found in the attached rubric. 

After their review, the panel will forward recommended proposals to the staff. Those who have submitted recommended proposals will be invited to a virtual pitch presentation where they will share their vision for their campaign with the staff and panel members.

How to Apply

  1. Review the Campaign Assessment Rubric.
  2. Review the grant application form.
  3. Draft your campaign plan and gather the other necessary information.
  4. Submit your application through this form by October 12th, 2020.