Request for Proposals: Evaluation of The Carter Center Observing U.S. Elections Project

Background and Purpose

The Carter Center, in partnership with Emory University, is guided by a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering. It seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health.  The Center’s Democracy Program works globally to advance democratic elections and governance consistent with universal human rights.  The Carter Center has observed 103 elections in 39 countries around the world.

The Carter Center believes that data-driven observation of electoral processes has the potential to provide positive feedback loops to channel useful information and recommendations to election administrators on how electoral processes can be improved, and the voter experience enhanced. However, this requires that there be more information about observation available to election administrators, legislators and other rule-makers, and that credible organizations are able to deploy observers and build a constructive relationship with election administrators.

While The Carter Center does not observe elections in the United States, there is a legacy of leadership and a commitment to sharing expertise. In 2005, the Carter-Baker Commission, co-chaired by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, recommended that all legitimate observers be granted unrestricted access to the electoral process, and that legal reforms be made to ensure that this can occur in each state.  However, non-partisan observation of U.S. elections continues to face challenges. While U.S. membership in the OSCE includes a political commitment to invite the OSCE to deploy observers, there continues to be opposition to observation from state governments (e.g., Iowa and Texas in the 2012 elections).  At the same time, state laws governing access for national and international observers vary significantly, with some jurisdictions allowing good access to electoral processes while others prohibit observation completely.

This means that most election administrators have limited experience with observers.  In fact, for many election administrators, especially in the southern United States, “observation” is synonymous with federal intervention under the Voting Rights Act, which in the past allowed the Justice Department to deploy observers to polling stations to witness and document violations of the law.  Therefore, there is little awareness or understanding among election administrators of the positive role that data-driven, non-partisan observation can play in improving the electoral process for the voter experience.  Specifically, election administrators, from the county level to the state level, lack an understanding of:

  • What impartial, non-partisan observation is;
  • The organizations/institutions that conduct observation in the United States;
  • How observation can benefit election administration;
  • The roles and responsibilities of observers;
  • The guidelines that should be put in place to facilitate observation (codes of conduct etc.); and
  • The rules for observation at the county and state level throughout the United States.

With this context in mind, TCC designed a small project focused on election observation in the United States. The project provided information to lawmakers and others about election observation through the development of a website and outreach efforts, and also developed training resources for election observation for the League of Women Voters.

The purpose of this evaluation are to:

  1. Contribute to the learning of The Carter Center
  2. Address a requirement of the project funder
  3. Contribute to the learning of partner organizations to ensure the sustainability of the project outputs going forward

The Objectives of the evaluation are to:

  1. To ascertain results (output, outcome, contribution to impact) and assess the effectiveness, efficiency and relevance of a specific project/program intervention;
  2. To provide findings, conclusions and recommendations to assist partners in ensuring the ongoing sustainability of project outputs.

Requirements

This evaluation is being conducted at the end of the two-year funding grant for the Observing U.S. Elections Project.  While activities were conducted largely by The Carter Center, the main outputs of the project have been/will be handed over to partner organizations (the National Conference of State Legislatures and the League of Women Voters).  For this reason, we would like an evaluation of the program that not only considers the outcomes and impact of the project, but also considers how lessons learned can be taken forward by our partners to ensure the sustainability of our collaborative efforts.

The following questions frame the requirements of the evaluation, but should not limit inquiry:

  • Did the project accomplish what it was intended to? How did it contribute to the improvement and transparency of U.S. elections?
  • What were the unintended consequences of the project (negative and positive)?
  • How can the outputs be maintained and improved in the future by partner organizations?

Resources available from The Carter Center to assist in this evaluation include:

  • Documents related to the research and training components of the project, as well as the partnerships
  • Donor reports
  • Available monitoring and evaluation reports
  • Other appropriate documents such as newsletters and press
  • Access to program staff, Strategic Planning Committee members, and other appropriate stakeholder

Scope of Work

The evaluation methodology will be developed by the evaluator(s) in consultation with the Evaluation Review Team, and should use methods that are most appropriate for addressing the evaluation questions.

The ERT includes the director of the Democracy Program, the Observing U.S. Elections Team, and the Center’s Technical Advisor on DM&E.

A full report will be delivered to the Evaluation Review Team. After ERT review, the full report, as well as an executive summary, will be made available to the senior management of The Carter Center and our donor.

By July 15, 2017 the evaluator(s) will meet with the Evaluation Review Team to determine the evaluation design. Key deliverables include a draft report by July 31, 2017 and a final report by August 7, 2017. By August 7, the evaluator(s) will meet with the ERT to present the final report and discuss findings and recommendations. Proposals should include an expanded time line with appropriate status reports to the Evaluation Review Team. Proposals may also include other activities deemed necessary by the evaluator and specified within the work plan.

The evaluator(s) will be hired by and report to the director of the Democracy Program. The project leader shall be the Evaluation Review Team contact with the evaluator(s).

Proposal Submission Requirements

All proposals must be received by July 3, 2017. Proposals received after this date might not be considered. A transmittal letter and proposal should be sent to avery.davis-roberts@cartercenter.org as an Adobe PDF. Other formats will not be accepted. Proposals should be no more than five pages in length and must address the complete scope of work and deliverables, and include the following sections:

a)      Organization/Evaluator Background: State the name of the organization and / or evaluator. If an organization, describe the general nature of its work and specifically name the evaluator that will be conducting the work. Describe the education, skills, and experiences that uniquely qualify the evaluator for this work. Include three examples of related work completed along with contact information for the organizations served.

b)      Statement of Proposed Work: State in succinct terms an understanding of the work to be completed. Describe the methodologies proposed to complete the work including a timetable for completion of specific deliverables, the personnel needed to complete tasks, and expectations for support and assistance from The Carter Center. While the evaluator(s) is expected to work independently, the Evaluation Review Team will assist in facilitating access to stakeholders, providing needed documents, and solving problems and concerns that may develop throughout the course of the evaluation. Logistics such as travel and accommodations are the responsibility of the evaluator(s) and will be reimbursed by The Carter Center according to policy.

c)      Budget and Deliverables: Provide a detailed budget as well as a description of the specific deliverables that will be submitted, the time line, and expected schedule of compensation.

d) Additional Information and Comments: Include any other information deemed important, but not specifically required elsewhere.

In the proposal, the evaluator(s) should demonstrate:

  • Experience designing and leading impact evaluations using a logic framework;
  • Experience applying qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods where data constraints exist;
  • Facilitation and interviewing skills;
  • Experience working with U.S. organizations doing work internationally;
  • Proficiency in

Criteria for evaluating proposals will include:

  • Strength of qualifications
  • Understanding of the work to be completed
  • Strength of work plan
  • Cost
  • Time

The Carter Center may conduct telephone interviews as a part of the selection process. Parties submitting proposals should be available for interviews on July 6-7, 2017.

Inquiries

Questions that help clarify the work to be completed can be submitted to avery.davis-roberts@cartercenter.org. Telephone calls will not be entertained.