News & Politics

The Easiest Way to Get Your Community to Vote Progressive: Spread Local Voter Guides

Voter guides are perfect for starting conversations about voting without making anyone feel judged or put on the spot. Help your fellow citizens make informed choices now.

Which is better, voter guides or sliced bread?

I say voter guides.

Please drop whatever you're doing right now (you're reading my article so technically you're all mine for the next 60 seconds). We're going to swing an election together. Somewhere in the country. Right now. Click on TheBallot.org. Find a local progressive voter guide for your town, and share it with everyone you know. Right now.

Go ahead. I'll wait...

Ok... GOOD JOB!  We just helped swing an election together, somewhere in the country.

This handy new toolTheBallot.orghas aggregated more than 350 local progressive and non-partisan voter guides. Some were created by well-known progressive groups like Sierra Club and SEIU, but a lot of the best ones were create by individuals or small informal groups.

Our shot-term goal is to get tens of thousands of 2008 Obama voters to come out, cast informed votes this Tuesday, and get their friends to do the same.

The truth is that most of us have no freaking clue what is on our ballots -- especially down ballot stuff (judges, county assessors, local ballot measures, etc). Honestly, it's intimidating, even for me. But Local Voter guides don't just help us vote down ballot. The act of creating, reading and sharing local voter guides helps us to get over the embarrassment of not knowing. It makes us feel knowledgeable, confident, and empowered to share the guides with our friends and talk to them about what's on the ballot, and the importance of voting.

It's amazing: As individuals armed with home-made voter guides, we can have the same impact as a powerful interest group or a newspaper editorial board -- the power to influence and turn-out hundreds and thousands of new votes.

The reason why I'm so passionate about voter guides isn't just about voting down ballot. It's about self-organizing groups of deeply motivated volunteers who take ownership of getting out the vote in their own communities, on their own terms, through their own networks. It's a 21st Century model of how to build an empowered hyper-local progressive political movement from the ground up.

AND it's also about helping win and swing as many elections as possible on Tuesday -- at all levels.

We are in for some real nail-biters, folks!

What motivates me in the short term is the idea of being the margin of victory in squeaky close elections. I've seen it up close plenty of times:

2000 Florida Presidential Race: 537 votes.
2004 Washington State Governor's race: 127 Votes. 
2008 Minnesota Senate Race: 312 votes.

As Karl Rove reminds us, the 2006 mid-term election -- the sweeping Democratic victory, which gave Dems control of both Chambers of Congress -- was decided by only 10,000 votes in the Senate (in two states) and less than 80,000 votes in the House (spread across 14 districts). Several House races were decided by less than 1000 votes.

We only need a few more votes to win a lot of these races and there are at least 30 Million sporadic voters who voted for Obama in 2008 who are not expected to vote at all in 2010 -- unless we ask them to.

I bet you have at least 10 friends in your phone and Facebook right now who will vote on Tuesday, but only if you remind them.

Which brings us to the final reason voter guides are better than sliced bread. Voter guides are the perfect excuse to start conversations about voting without making anyone feel judged or put on the spot. You're sharing an extremely helpful resource. 

So stop biting your nails about this election. And start sharing like crazy: TheBallot.org.

Billy Wimsatt works on TheBallot.org and is author of Please Don't Bomb The Suburbs.
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