AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

Modernize voting and increase turnout with the cloud

After missing several elections as a graduate student living away from home, Seth Flaxman set out to build a reminder system alongside friend and classmate Kathryn Peters so no one would have to miss an election again. Energized by a vision to make voting a simple, seamless experience, Seth and Kathryn started Democracy Works, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the status quo. Democracy Works set out to build the tools needed to upgrade the infrastructure of our democracy and improve the voting experience for voters and election officials.

TurboVote—Democracy Works’ flagship project—helps voters register, stay registered, and cast a ballot in every election, from municipal to national. Their six-millionth voter signed up for TurboVote in 2018 thanks to the largest college, nonprofit, and corporate voter engagement coalition in the country.

Scaling TurboVote with AWS

While it took Democracy Works five years to reach its first million users on TurboVote, they served a record five million new users in 2018 alone, scaling with the use of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud.

A tool like TurboVote sees long periods of low visitor volume, but in the lead-up to federal elections, TurboVote can receive millions of visitors in a single week. Amazon EC2 and Amazon DynamoDB allows them to scale on demand, making it possible for TurboVote to handle tens of thousands of concurrent users on its busiest days without having to pay for dedicated infrastructure year round.

Planning and organizing the November 6 wave of over five million notifications required the TurboVote developer team to review rate limits and maximum capacity of all their third-party services, but with AWS, they were able to trust that even their biggest day would not strain the infrastructure. Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) seamlessly processed more than three million email messages on the day prior to the 2018 midterm election.

Beyond supporting fluctuations in application usage, Democracy Works turns to AWS to deliver new features that directly improve how TurboVote serves their users. For example, DynamoDB’s full-disk encryption across all instances helps protect voters’ personal information.

2019 and beyond

Looking ahead, Democracy Works plans to engage even more voters, providing them with better tools and technology for getting to the polls. One of the most successful on-ramps for new voters has been The TurboVote Challenge, a program that brings leading companies and organizations together in a nonpartisan, long-term commitment to increase voter registration and participation across America.

Prepare for elections

Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers scalable election solutions within three core pillars: Security and Compliance, Voter Engagement, and Elections Management. So whether you’re launching a political campaign to mobilize supporters through strategic messaging, or serving citizens with a personalized digital experience as an elections administrator, AWS Elections-as-a-Service provides building blocks you can quickly assemble to support virtually any secure workload for your digital marketing needs. To learn more, contact us at Elections2020@Amazon.com.