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Pepperdine | School of Public Policy

Election 2.016: Technology and Civic Engagement

Held on October 14, 2016, just us ahead of the historic 2016 presidential election, the Pepperdine School of Public Policy and its Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership, hosted a day-long conference where we explored how technology is changing the way voters engage in the election process.

Bringing together tech innovators, academics, political strategists, democracy advocates and students, panels explored:

  • How technology is changing the way voters access information, and the types of information available to them
  • How technology is changing the way voters engage in the political process at all levels of government from local through national
  • How technology is changing the way voters vote through election technology

Lunchtime Keynote Address:
From Kissing Babies to Liking Posts: How Social Media has Changed the American Campaign
Featuring chief social media strategists from presidential campaigns:
● Vince Harris, Rand Paul & Donald Trump Campaigns
● Melissa Ryan, Obama 2012 & various progressive campaigns

Election 2.016 is part of Pepperdine University's campus-wide effort to promote voter engagement in what will an historic Presidential Election, while also highlighting the importance of state and local elections to the communities we live in.

Election 2.016 Conference Sessions & Video

 Session 1: Informed Voting in the Information Age

This session looked at how online and mobile technology is changing the ways that voters find information about issues and how data visualization, animation, etc. are seeking to help voters sort through information.


Kambiz "Kamy" Akhavan, President, ProCon.org
Kamy Akhavan has served as managing editor of ProCon.org since December 2004, and as president of ProCon.org since December 2010. Akhavan has more than 20 years of experience in making serious educational content entertaining, accessible, and affordable. His work has been published in textbooks, magazines, newspapers, and websites across the United States. He has been interviewed by national media including Reuters, Associated Press, Fox News, ABC, NPR, CNN, and CBS. Akhavan was born in Iran, grew up in southern Louisiana, and has lived in California for over 20 years. He holds a BA and MA in history from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Nate Kaplan, Executive Director and Founder, SeePolitical
Nate Kaplan is dedicated to promoting political inclusion and civic participation. He served as a legislative aide in the Massachusetts State Senate before working in Boston's trial court system as a juvenile probation officer. At the age of 24, Kaplan ran for the office of state representative in his hometown in Central Massachusetts and became the youngest candidate in that district's history to receive a major party nomination. Kaplan received his master's degree in public policy at the University of Southern California while working as a communications, legislative, and district director for Los Angeles City Councilmembers Bill Rosendahl and Mike Bonin.

Daniel Newman, President and Cofounder, MapLight
Daniel G. Newman was named one of Fast Company's 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2010, for his work at MapLight. Prior to cofounding MapLight, he founded Say I Can, a speech recognition software firm, and he is the author of three books on speech recognition software. Newman received an MA in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, where he attended on a National Science Foundation Fellowship, and a BA in biomedical ethics from Brown University. He was a 2011-2013 Network Fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.

Hunter Scarborough, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Voter
Hunter Scarborough is the founder & chief executive officer of Voter. Named the "#1 up-and-coming app" of 2016 by Newsweek, Voter is a platform to find the politicians, corporations, and causes that support your views. Often dubbed, "Tinder for politics," Voter analyzes big (political) data, including candidates' speeches, voting history, and campaign finance records, to give you complete confidence in your vote. He is a lead proponent on leveraging technology in the political process, speaking most recently at Mark Zuckerberg's foundation on immigration reform, FWD.us, and NPR's "Hack the Vote."

Moderator: Ashley Trim, Executive Director, Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership, Pepperdine University
Ashley Trim has worked in public policy at the local, state and national level, for both governments and nonprofit organizations. She currently writes and speaks about transparency and public engagement for local and online publications, Davenport Institute trainings, and national conferences. Trim serves as senior editor of the Davenport Institute's public engagement blogs; oversees the Institute's annual public engagement grant program; and coordinates trainings, conferences, and partnership projects for the Institute. Trim has a BA in government from Patrick Henry College and an MPP from Pepperdine University.

 Session 2: Networking for Engagement

This panel considered the challenges raised by social media and the effects of silo-ing and how new platforms and applications are seeking to mitigate these effects through transparency and dialogue.


Deborah Devedjian, Founder and Chief Citizens' Officer, The Chisel
Deborah Devedjian is a leader in the global education and training industry and an expert in corporate governance. She works to create, build, invest in, and transform organizations. Long committed to education and inquiry as the basis for democracy, she weaves together more than 20 years of experiences in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors with the goal of maximizing mission fulfillment, shareholder value, and accountability. Her hallmark is a unique combination of keen business insights with creativity and passion. Devedijian founded Copernicus Learning Ventures, launched Warburg Pincus' Education & Training Investments Group, was on the founding team of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, launched RoundTable Partners, and worked for the The Boston Consulting Group. Devedijian has a BA from Yale and an MBA from Harvard and has serves and has served on 20+ not-for profit boards. Her patron saint is Ben Franklin.

James Hall, Founder and CEO, Open Campaign
James Hall started working in technology in 2005, for Iventa, an SaaS ecommerce company that specialized in music and technology subscription management. He oversaw project management and development of client facing website development for clients including many Fortune 500 companies like Sony, Warner Brothers, Cisco, and Symantec. At Equities.com, Hall was the director of product development for a business community network for issuer companies. About a year ago, Hall founded Open Campaign. The climate for technology and politics is here. He sees Open Campaign not as a job, but as a purpose.

Matt Mahan, CEO, Brigade Media

Moderator: Pete Peterson, Dean, School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University
Pete Peterson was the first executive director of the bi-partisan organization Common Sense California, which, in 2010 became the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine University. Currently, Peterson serves as dean of Pepperdine's School of Public Policy. Along with teaching a class on the subject at Pepperdine, Peterson co-developed the Davenport Institute's full and half-day training seminars which have been offered to over 1,000 public sector leaders in the last five years. Peterson serves on the advisory boards of California's Institute for Local Government, and the Public Policy Institute of California, as well as the DaVinci Charter Schools in Hawthorne, California. Peterson earned a BA in history from George Washington University and an MPP from Pepperdine University. He was the 2014 Republican nominee for California Secretary of State.

 Keynote: From Kissing Babies to Liking Posts: How Social Media Has Changed the American Campaign

The keynote panel featured chief social media strategists from presidential campaigns who will share their experiences using social media on the campaign trail and discuss how social media is changing 21st-century politics.

Vince Harris, Chief Digital Strategist, Rand Paul's presidential campaign
Vincent Harris is chief executive officer of Harris Media and served as chief digital strategist for Senator Rand Paul's presidential campaign. Harris heads up his digital agency from Austin, Texas, and has run digital strategy for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Ted Cruz, and recently in country for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He also worked briefly with the Donald Trump campaign. He has spoken about digital media's impact on politics on CNBC and Fox Business among other networks. Harris is pursuing his PhD at the University of Texas and has served as guest faculty at Baylor University.

Melissa Ryan, Digital Strategist, Obama 2012
Melissa Ryan directs the DC strategy team at Trilogy Interactive, a strategy design and technology firm that performs digital outreach for political campaigns, nonprofits, and labor unions. Ryan has spent a decade leading digital campaigns for nonprofits and political races, including EMILY's List, Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign, the New Organizing Institute, and Senator Russ Feingold's campaign. Visit her website at melissaryan.net or follow her on Twitter @MelissaRyan.

Moderator: Pete Peterson, Dean, School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University

 Session 3: Getting to the Ballot Box: Technology and Political Engagement

This session looked at how technology is changing the ability of individuals to engage in political campaigns, discussions, and movements.


Jill Brownfield, Founder, TurboVote
As partner support lead at TurboVote, Jill Brownfield works with partners to maximize their voter registration and engagement efforts, finding ways to more fully engage in the voting process. She is focused on TurboVote's nonprofit and corporate partners, and has most recently been working on the TurboVote Challenge: a strategic campaigns coalition aimed at increasing voter turnout. Brownfield is a graduate of Stetson University with a BA in political science and she works remotely from California. She's a native Floridian, rugby player, and an avid Cubs fan.

Jim Cupples, Director for RunForOffice.org, Nation Builder
Jim Cupples is the director of RunForOffice.org, NationBuilder's national database that helps people understand what they can run for and how to get on the ballot. Cupples' research has mainly focused on the issues of candidacy turnout and what prevents people from running for office. Cupples' work has been supported by the Sunlight Foundation and he has worked with the computer science departments at Portland State University and the University of California, Berkeley. Cupples also coordinates the data collection on this project with interns and volunteers from around the country, and like minded tech companies and institutions dedicated to civic engagement.

Adam Silver, Founder, CitizenUp
Adam Silver is a serial entrepreneur, campaign finance expert with the political law firm Olson, Hagel & Fishburn, and founder of CitizenUP--The world's first hashtag fundraising platform that monetizes hashtags for nonprofits and political campaigns. CitizenUP's cutting-edge technology allows individuals to instantly donate to their favorite nonprofits and political campaigns by simply retweeting or mentioning the nonprofit or campaign's CitizenUP hashtag combination (Ex: #CADemsGive #CU) on social media. In contrast to off-site donation pages like PayPal and GoFundMe, CitizenUP allows individuals to donate in-stream on social media where their friends and families can see a donation has been made and how to instantly make one themselves.

Moderator:  Alex Kouts, CPO, Countable; Head Product Dude, Lincoln Initiative
Alex Kouts is a bay area tech guy/entrepreneur obsessed with furthering American democracy. He's spent his career building and scaling startups as a founder, a head of product/marketing, and a UX designer. He is currently the chief product officer at Countable as well as the lead product guy at Lincoln Initiative. He's built and launched things focused on civic engagement, campaign tech, media, digital philanthropy, crowdfunding, and gaming. Kouts has advised Disney, ESPN, ABC, Lloyds Bank of London, U.S. Congress, and startups; as well as individual members of Congress on digital strategy. In his spare time, Kouts enjoys teaching and speaking publicly about all things product management, UX design, and startupy goodness.

 Session 4: Election Day Technology

When voters think of voting booth technology, we often get caught up in the idea of online voting, and the security v. privacy issues this can raise. But what about the technology already used in our polling places? What are the best ways to keep voting machines, poll books, etc. up to date for a smooth and legitimate voter experience on election day?

Dr. Joe Kiniry, CEO and Chief Scientist, Free & Fair
Dr. Joe Kiniry is the chief executive officer and chief scientist at Free & Fair and principal investigator at Galois in Portland, Oregon. Until 2014, he was a professor at the Technical University of Denmark and the head of the Software Engineering Section. He was also a guest professor at the IT University of Copenhagen (aka ITU). Kiniry has raised in excess of $7.5M over the past fifteen years in academic and industrial research funding in the EU and the USA. Between Fall 2004 and February 2010, Kiniry was a tenured lecturer in the School of Computer Science and Informatics at the University College Dublin and a founding member of the Complex & Adaptive Systems Laboratory there. He holds a PhD from the California Institute of Technology.

Greg Miller, Cofounder, OSET Foundation
Greg Miller is one of two cofounders and chief development officer for the OSET Institute, a nonprofit election technology research institute. He leads all aspects of the Institute's resource development, corporate partner R&D alliances, public outreach, election official stakeholder relations, and government and legal affairs. Miller has 30+ years of technical and business experience in the information technology industry. He is a trained computer scientist, with graduate business education, and a law degree focused on intellectual property and technology law. Miller is active in the American Bar Association, including Cyberlaw, Information Privacy & Security, and Internet Governance. Miller is a member of the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee and a sustaining member of the Internet Society. Miller also served on the San Francisco Voting Systems Task Force from 2010-2012.

Dr. John R. Patrick, President, Attitude, LLC
Dr. John R. Patrick is president of Attitude LLC, and former vice president of Internet Technology at IBM. He is a Fellow of the IEEE and holds degrees in electrical engineering, management, law, and health administration. He has more than five decades of experience in business, marketing, and technology. He is a board member at OCLC and Keeeb, Inc., and a member of the Western Connecticut Health Network Biomedical Research Council. He is the author of Election Attitude - How Internet Voting Leads to a Stronger Democracy (2016); Net Attitude: What it is, How to Get it, and Why it is More Important Than Ever (2016); and Health Attitude: Unraveling and Solving the Complexities of Healthcare (2015).

Steve Trout, Director of Election Innovation, Clear Ballot
Steve Trout has 19 years experience in election law and administration. He is currently the director of election innovation at Clear Ballot and served on the EAC's Future of VVSG Workgroup. Previously he served as Oregon's director of elections. While in Oregon, Trout pioneered using tablets in elections. Trout worked in the private sector for 5 years assisting local governments with compliance with election laws, including HAVA and the Voting Rights Act, as well as with election administration and training. Prior to that he served as senior election counsel to the California Secretary of State and as assistant registrar of voters in San Bernardino County, California. He has served as counsel to the California Voting Modernization Board, and has taught continuing legal education seminars on election law and HAVA to state and county counsel from throughout the country. Trout holds a JD, BS in managerial economics, and BA in political science, all from the University of California, Davis.

Moderator:  Derek Muller, Associate Professor of Law, Pepperdine University
Derek Muller's research and writing focus on election law, particularly federalism and the role of states in the administration of elections. His work has appeared in the Arizona Law Review, Indiana Law Journal, the Arizona State Law Journal, the Florida State University Law Review, the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, and the peer-reviewed Election Law Journal. At Pepperdine, he teaches in the areas of election law, civil procedure, complex litigation, administrative law, and evidence. Muller holds a BA from Hillsdale College and a JD from Notre Dame.

 Session 5: County Registrar Roundtable – Implementing Election 2.0

This session brought together California elections officials who are on the front lines of implementing elections technology in the Golden State who will share some of the promises and challenges of adopting technology and where they see this field heading in the next several years.


Kammi Foote, County Clerk/Recorder, Inyo County
Kammi Foote is the elected clerk/recorder & registrar of voters in Inyo County, California. During her tenure in public service, she has had the privilege of serving in leadership positions for both the County Recorders Association of California (CRAC) and the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials (CACEO). She has testified before the California legislature and has written several articles on matters of civic engagement and public policy.

Neal Kelley, Registrar, Orange County
Neal Kelley is registrar of voters for Orange County, California, the fifth largest voting jurisdiction in the United States, serving more than 1.6 million registered voters. Kelley has led the Registrar of Voters' office through the largest cycle of elections in the County's 125-year history. He has been the recipient of numerous state and national awards for election administration and was recently awarded the 2015 "Public Official of the Year" award by the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks. Kelley is an appointed member and chair of the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Board of Advisors and the EAC Voting Systems Standards Board, is the immediate past president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO), and is the past president for the National Association of County Recorders, Election Officials and Clerks (NACRC). Kelley earned a BS in business and management from the University of Redlands and an MBA from the University of Southern California.

Dean Logan, Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, Los Angeles County
Dean Logan is the registrar-recorder/county clerk for the nation's largest and most diverse local election jurisdiction with 4.5 million registered voters, over 500 political districts, and experience providing election services in nine languages. He serves on the Executive Board for the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO); the California Secretary of State's VoteCal Statewide Voter Registration System Advisory Committee; the National Election Center's Task Forces on Education & Training and Election Reform; and on Pew Center for the States' Updating Voter Registration and Performance Index for Elections working groups.

Moderator:  Monica Childers Crane, Director of Government Services, DemocracyWorks
When not dreaming up ways to engage voters and empower the electorate, Monica Crane Childers is a wife and animal lover in the great state of Kansas. A proud Jayhawk, Crane Childers credits her college experiences at the University of Kansas' Dole Institute of Politics for her love of politics and public service. That passion led her to a job in the Massachusetts State House, and she has since worked primarily in new media, first on campaigns and eventually for NGP VAN. Crane Childers holds a bachelor's degree in communication studies from the University of Kansas and was named the 2008 Rose Scholar in Communication Management at Emerson College, where she earned a master's degree in 2010.