I cried once while working the polls during the August primary.
Actually, while working the polls.
This husband and wife, new citizens, came in to vote, and they asked if we had information about the candidates. I showed them the sample ballots, but they wanted information about the candidates’ views on different issues, and their voting records. They left and said that they’d come back after they had a chance to research each of the candidates on their sample ballot.
And they did.
Four hours later, they showed up with hand-written notes, presumably about for whom they intended to vote. They said that they’d found good information in the newspaper and on the Internet and had decided together how to vote. They each cast their ballots, I gave them three “I voted” stickers each (and, okay, hugs, which may not technically be kosher with the election board), and they walked away holding hands.
Now that’s beautiful.
And, while it hasn’t brought tears to my eyes, I think this Midwest Democracy Project site is pretty gorgeous, too.
I’ve spent too many hot days trying to register voters to believe that there’s any quick fix for our civic disengagement malaise–the reality is that connecting people to the elections that shape their lives takes inspiring candidates, strong institutional relationships, and a changed culture of empowerment–but this is still an awesome set of tools for those would-be voters afraid to cast a ballot without “knowing what I’m voting on.”
The site focuses on Kansas and Missouri, although there is some information about other states in the region. For those voting in the November 2, 2010 elections here, then, it’s definitely worth your time (with a warning that I spent about 3 hours on the site last night–it’s pretty addictive for political folks like me!).
Here’s what you’ll find:
Check it out, and let me know what you think. What do you see as the biggest gaps in information to promote voter engagement? What, beyond information, do we most need to address to increase turnout? And what should we be trying to measure, beyond turnout at the polls, to gauge the extent to which Americans are connected to their own democracy?