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Georgia-Voter.Info

Advocating a Voter Information Guide for the State of Georgia

 
 
 

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." - Thomas Jefferson

I've started a new project to address this concern. Visit http://www.wikivoterguide.com.

The purpose of this website is to advocate that the State of Georgia compile and distribute a Voter Information Guide to voters in the State prior to each election and primary. This website will explain the concept, why its important, and what individuals can do to help make it a reality. This website will also act as a clearing house for information about efforts to improve voter education in the State of Georgia.

What is a Voter Information Guide?

A Voter Information Guide is a booklet that is distributed to voters prior to an election and contains information about the races and ballot initiatives in that election. The Guide is a tool that helps voters research and understand the decisions that they are making in the voting booth.

The actual contents of the Guide vary State to State. Typically Guides include information about what races are occurring in the upcoming election, and contain 1 or 2 page statements from each candidate in each race. In States that have ballot initiatives, information about those initiatives is also included. That information can consist of a summary of the ballot initiative, an economic impact analysis of the measure, as well as arguments and rebuttals for and against the measure.

Voter Information Guides are typically printed by the State's chief elections official, and are mailed to registered voters, distributed from Post Offices, and published on the Internet.

Why does Georgia need a Voter Information Guide?

Our local elections are important, our right to vote in them is sacred, and the decisions we make have a critical impact on the quality of our lives. Unfortunately, people often pay far more attention to politics at the federal level then they do to politics in their own home towns. All too often, voters go into the booth with little or no real information about what is at stake in local races, and they find themselves simply voting party lines, or voting based solely on name recognition. Voter Information Guides address this problem in four ways:

  • They are proactive. When voters receive the Guide in the mail they will know that an election is coming up, and they will have an excellent resource for planning their votes right in front of them.

  • They are comprehensive. Voters will not need to dig through websites and local newspapers in search of information about each local race, something too few of us take the time to do. Voters will know that there is one definitive source to which they can turn for information about the upcoming election.

  • They are balanced. Voter Information Guides provide each candidate and each side of a political issue with an equal amount of space in which to make their case. Voters can objectively analyze information provided directly by candidates, instead of having their information filtered by the editorial opinions of local media and advocacy groups.

  • They are rich. All too often candidates in small, local races are not afforded the amount of coverage by local media that they need to get their message across to voters. A Voter Information Guide can provide a wealth of information to voters about important races they have never put serious thought into in the past.

What's wrong with existing sources of information about local elections?

There are a multitude of information sources currently available to voters, such as non-partisan voting advocacy organizations, political groups, websites that track the records of public officials, and news media election guides. These are all useful tools, and the Internet in particular has made it much easier for us to be an informed electorate. However, none of these things comes close to the service provided by State Voter Information Guides. Present sources of information are:

  • Not proactive. Voters may know that an election is coming up, but if they want to make intelligent decisions about local races they have to seek out information about which officials are up for re-election, who the candidates are, and what their positions are. Many voters don't do this and wouldn't even know where to start.

  • Not comprehensive. Many media organizations don't have the resources to provide strong coverage of small races that don't impact a large number of their customers.

  • Not balanced. News media election guides often present editorial endorsements along side or interspersed with raw election information. Editorial endorsements are an important exercise of our First Amendment rights. However, when voters are getting all of their information from an opinionated source it is harder for them to view the information objectively and make their own choices.

Which states already have some form of Voter Information Guide?

Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

(Not all of these states are providing information that is as comprehensive as we'd like to see. My interest in this was formed by living in California for a few years. Their Guides are very complete and informative.)

Where can I learn more about Voter Information Guides in other states?

The National Conference of State Legislatures has a small web page on the subject here.

What arguments are made against creating a Voter Information Guide in Georgia?

The only counter argument that I have come up with so far is the cost, but I do not feel that these Guides are prohibitively expensive.

How much is this going to cost?

States that have these Guides spend less then a dollar per voter per election. California likely spends the most, as they have a very high population, and a number of different language communities to support. They spend about 7 million dollars per election on their Guides, which are distributed to 12.8 million people. Most states seem to spend around a million according to the information on the NCSL website referenced above.

Has anyone else ever tried to establish a Voter Information Guide in Georgia?

Yes. In 2001 Georgia House Bill 326 was proposed by 6 Democrats (Bob Holmes, Doug Teper, Stephanie Benfield, Karla Drenner, Buddy Childers, and Arnold Ragas). This law proposed a number of changes to political advertising and campaign finance laws in the State along with the creation of a Voter Information Commission, which would presumably create a Guide like the one described on this website. This law did not pass. I presently don't know anything else about it.

Who has endorsed the establishment of a Voter Information Guide in Georgia?

I have just established this website, and I have no official word of support from anyone on this matter at this time. I think that gaining endorsements for this idea from local political organizations, and public officials, is an important first step toward building it's credibility. If your organization would like to endorse this effort please contact me. My contact information is provided below.

What can I do to help?

The first step in this process is to raise awareness. Most people in the State of Georgia have never heard of a Voter Information Guide and the idea has never occurred to them. If you think this is a good idea, tell someone else about it. Give them the URL for this website (http://www.georgia-voter.info/) and ask them to take a look at it.

Also, check back here every once in a while. As I start to reach out to the community about this issue I will likely find people who want to hear directly from their constituents, and I will organize ways to do that through this website.

If you feel you can personally assist this effort please send me an email. My contact information is provided below.

Who set up this web site?

My name is Tom Cross. I am a resident of Dekalb County. I graduated from Georgia Tech in '99 and I work in the computer security industry as a research engineer. I have never held public office and I am not associated with a political party. You can email me here: tom@memestreams.net