The Foundation for Better Government Is Already in Your Pocket
I’ll never forget the first time I walked into a voting booth. I waited in line, pulled back the curtain, and picked up the pen to cast my very first vote.
Despite being an informed, politically active 18-year old prepared to vote for president, governor, and senator, I stared at many more names that I never expected (county commissioners, judges), as well as convoluted ballot initiatives. I left the booth feeling guilty – like I had failed this important test of democracy.
In 2015, my own name appeared on a ballot for a local school board election. During the course of my campaign I discovered many people didn’t know the election was taking place. I called a friend from college, Alex Niemczewski, and asked for her vote. She was excited about my candidacy but confessed that she didn’t even know there was an election.
A deeper dive reveals that she is not alone. A 2016 report found that, in the country’s 30 largest cities, fewer than 20 percent of residents vote in mayoral elections. For school board races that number plummets even further.
Alex and I decided to team up to offer voters a way to be sure they completed their ballots with confidence, knowing that who they were voting for and what they were voting on aligned with their personal values, in every race and every election, nationwide.
There are more than 500,000 elected officials in the United States that make important decisions every day: monitoring the quality of our drinking water, levying taxes, and choosing the leadership of our schools.
But right now, information about each candidate is not easy to find – even finding a sample ballot online can be difficult. As a result, most voters guess, leave blanks, or stay home altogether. Far too often, we’re leaving the election of our local elected officials up to chance.
We launched BallotReady.org in 2015 to make it easy for voters to vote informed on the entire ballot.
The site allows voters to type in their information to research the candidates and measures they will see in the voting booth, and then make informed choices by comparing candidates based on stances on issues, endorsements, and candidate experience. Voters can then save their choices to consult via phone in the voting booth.
By fall 2018, BallotReady will be live nationwide with information all the way down the ballot.
Research we conducted with help from MIT after the 2015 election showed that voters who used our site were 20 percent more likely to show up to vote. Anecdotally, we’ve heard things from voters like, “This is the first time I’ve voted all the way,” and “This is the first time I’ve voted for judges.”
Both CityBase and BallotReady use technology to support government and election transparency and education. This work results in a significant increase in civic engagement. We’re excited to continue the work of educating voters and making sure every vote, in every race and election, is informed and impactful.