Ben Mindes

About Ben

(Master in Public Policy, Class of 2019)
Originally from Washington D.C., Ben graduated from Boston College with a B.A in 2011, majoring in political science and minoring in Asian Studies. Ben worked in international development for the past six years, most recently at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) where he spent three years as a member of the Asia team and the past two years as a member of the Elections and Political Processes Team. As a first-year MPP student at McCourt, Ben is interested in how more major areas of foreign policy like trade and security impact U.S. strategies for democracy assistance. Ben was a collegiate swimmer and still coaches on the weekends.

Ben’s Project

On November 6, 2018, 83 trained Observe D.C. volunteer observers each deployed to randomly sampled polling places across Washington D.C. to independently monitor key electoral procedures including access for people with disabilities inside and outside the polling place, turnout information, secrecy of the ballot, and other issues throughout the entire day. Because Observe D.C. findings are based on information from a representative sample of polling places, we are able to make a comprehensive statement about election day processes in the District. The effort was the first sample-based election observation in U.S. history and served as a model for future systematic monitoring efforts nationwide.

Overall, Observe D.C. saw an orderly election day where procedures were largely followed and citizens were able to fully exercise their right to vote. Nearly all polling places opened on time and had marked accessible entrances for people with disabilities. Necessary equipment, including the DS200 optical scanners, ExpressVote machines, paper ballots, and special ballot materials were available in all polling places. Observe D.C. observers were allowed to enter and observe in all 83 locations where they were assigned. While 18% of polling places experienced difficulties with electronic ballot scanners and voting machines, issues were largely resolved quickly and observers quickly reported incidents to Observe D.C.’s central command center and leadership staff immediately contacted the D.C. Board of Elections (DCBOE) for follow-up.

A complete preliminary report can be found below.

Complete Observe D.C. findings will be compiled into a final report to be shared with relevant electoral stakeholders, including D.C. voters, candidates, and the DCBOE. Observe D.C. leadership will also testify to the D.C. Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, and provide electoral reform recommendations based on its independently collected, statistically valid data. Observe D.C. is a nonpartisan initiative led by Ben Mindes. The initiative received initial seed funding from Georgetown University’s Baker Center for Leadership and Governance.

For more information, feel free to contact Ben Mindes at or visit Observe D.C. at

ODC Preliminary Report 2018 (1)

Ben’s Advisors

Pat Merloe

Patrick Merloe is the Senior Associate and Director of Electoral Programs at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI). Pat has participated in over 150 international missions for NDI to more than 65 countries, concerning political rights, electoral integrity and democratic development. He has produced a dozen publications on comparative law, human rights, and elections.



Julia Brothers

Julia Brothers is the Senior Program Manager for Elections and Deputy Director of the Open Election Data Initiative at the National Democratic Institute (NDI). She has over 14 years of experience supporting democratic institutions at home and abroad. Prior to her work in 17 countries with NDI, she worked for the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Election Initiatives to improve American electoral systems.