Home » Uncategorized » Online Voter Resources Continued, Continued

Online Voter Resources Continued, Continued

In my experience, the by-far single biggest and most pressing question posed by voters on Election Day is this: “Where do I vote?” The question, “What is on the ballot?” runs a distant second.

The best place to find the answers to those questions is not centralized at the state level. Voters are going to have to call someone locally to get a definitive answer, which is why the Texas Secretary of State provides a generally good list of phone numbers and contact information for the people administering county elections throughout the state.  It is true that organizations and agencies have made heroic efforts to automate and provide polling place data for all voters throughout the state, but these efforts tend to be thwarted by last-minute emergencies and contingencies, errors, omissions, and misunderstandings.

Here is the last set of aggregated voter resource websites my wife asked about. These sites tend to focus on issue advocacy to the exclusion of answering voter questions. Many, many special interest groups, (as well as many lobbyists posing as grassroots special interest groups) post websites promising “tools and resources for voters” or something similar. Often the tools and resources amount to not much more than a “DONATE” button.

Significantly, political advocacy sites (in general) tend not to provide much in the way of actual voter assistance of a practical sort. I suspect that this is because voter assistance is localized, difficult to automate, and time-consuming.

As elections approach, these sites proliferate for good and ill. Some do make a stab at providing sample ballots or polling place information, but none would be my choice if I actually wanted to find out where and when to vote.

Some examples include:

http://www.lcv.org/

(League of Conservation Voters – a national conservation advocacy group)

http://www.netrootsfoundation.org

(Netroots Foundation – political campaign strategies for progressive interests)

http://www.voterparticipation.org/

(Voter Participation Center – formerly Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes – organized voter registration of traditionally underrepresented populations. The whole focus seems to be on building VPC’s mailing list and database for targeted voter outreach).

http://videogamevoters.org/

(Video Game Voters – this website is a good example of “astroturfing,” in this case from a video game industry trade association).

“Astroturf” in this context is a slightly derogatory political insider slang term for an industry lobbyist posing as a humble grassroots organization – so called because an astroturfed organization, like the eponymous artificial turf, has fake grassroots. Astroturfing is a way of repackaging political advocacy to make it look more popular.

At least Video Game Voters is quite open and honest about itself as a lobbyist arm of the video game industry. More insidious forms of astroturf also exist – wherein earnest-seeming organizations troll for political support by appearing to tap into nonexistent voter bases, or function mostly as money-laundering fronts for repurposed political donations.

 

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