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Voter Line Wait app a semifinalist in Harvard awards program

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The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, recognized today Collin County's Voter Line App as part of the 100 programs named as semifinalists in this year's Innovations in American Government Awards competition. Collin's mobile-friendly application will compete to be named a Finalist in the competition and have the chance to be awarded the $100,000 grand prize in Cambridge this spring.

The county's app advanced from a pool of more than 500 applications from all 50 states, and was selected by the Innovations Award evaluators as examples of novel and effective action whose work has had significant impact, and who they believe can be replicated across the country and the world.

In 2012, a new state program allowed Collin County voters to cast ballots at any polling location within county borders for early voting and Election Day. The concept of a voter's particular polling location was no longer valid, and the county Elections and Information Technology departments worked on finding ways to let voters know that they could vote anywhere, and to inform voters that they had an option of going to another polling location with a shorter line.

The Voter Line Wait Mobile Application was a simple extension of the county's website, which had already developed a line wait dashboard that identified a polling location and the approximate line wait, and included a polling location interactive map link that the voter could view or print. The county later added a QR Code that tapped location capabilities of voters' mobile devices to determine their location and their proximity to voting centers that included the line-wait dashboard information and basic map layers. When voters scanned the posted QR Code with their mobile device, it gave them the option of staying in line or going to a nearby location with a shorter line.

[The application also earned a "Best of Texas" nod in 2014 for Best Application Serving the Public, by  e.Republic's Center for Digital Government.]

"These programs demonstrate that there are no prerequisites for doing the good work of governing" said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government program at the Ash Center. "Small towns and massive cities, huge federal agencies and local school districts, large budgets or no budgets at all — what makes government work best is the drive to do better, and this group proves that drive can be found anywhere."

The semifinalist programs represent a cross-section of jurisdictions and policy areas, and embody one of the most diverse and sophisticated groups that have advanced to this stage in the competition's 30-year history. They were invited to complete a supplementary application last fall, answering in-depth questions about their work, the process of creating and sustaining their programs, and how they believe they can teach others to do what they do.

The Ash Center expects to announce 10 programs that will be named Finalists and be invited to Cambridge to present to the Innovation Awards Program's National Selection Committee in March, with the grand prize winners to be named in June.