Much of the uncertainty behind the process of voting can be taken away with the Vote411.org resource, a online voter guide commissioned by the League of Women Voters.
Locally, the League of Women Voters of La Porte County has used the resource since 2012 and aims to help inform the public not only on who the candidates are for all their local races, but how the candidates feel about certain topics and where to vote as well.
“It’s a pretty neat interface,” said Sharon Carnes, secretary of the League of Women Voters of La Porte County. Carnes was the catalyst behind La Porte County getting on board with Vote411 two years ago.
“I wanted to incorporate what I know to the League and I had some software tester experience,” she said.
To access the site, those interested can go to Vote4111.org and enter their home address. Once logged in, a column on the left of the screen will indicate the next election date, registration deadlines and state contact information.
Before the election cycle, the League gathers the names and addresses of candidates in races that are of particular interest to residents. The candidates are then sent a letter to provide their e-mail, and if they do, they are sent an e-mail to fill out their basic information and in some cases, given questions on issues regarding the race they are a part of.
“For instance, judges will be given a set of questions and the county assessor candidates will be asked another set,”said Carnes, who is a member of the Michigan City Board of Public Works, Commission for Women and Licensing Board. “It is then the candidate’s responsibility to fill out the responses. They put it all in their own words.”
Candidates are also responsible to send a photo for inclusion on the site. While some races such as many of the township trustee races do not have questions, the League has asked certain questions of judge, prosecutor and county commissioner candidates.
While browsing through the different races and candidates on their ballot, voters can make their selections and view their ballot when it is complete. Carnes said they will then be allowed to either print it out or utilize it on their phones while in the voting booth.
A text message or email with a link to their personalized ballot can also be sent to the voter, Carnes said.
“It is easy to use and personalized,” she said. “Some may be unsure on what races are in their area or where they go to vote. This website has all the info there.”
Since the deadline for the 2014 May primary has passed, all information candidates have filled out is already on the site. The information will be printed out and distributed in a booklet form at the League of Women Voters’ candidate forum scheduled for April 24 at Purdue University North Central.
One of the key goals of Vote411.org is to increase voter turnout. Since 2013 was a “non-election” year locally, that goal will be put to the test in 2014.
“The stats from 2012 show that we had a lot of traffic and we are doing a better job this year,” Carnes said. “People really have had to dig to get information on candidates in the past, but this provides a one-stop shop on all the questions that come up during election time.”
The League of Women Voters, Carnes said, does “a great job of promoting the issues in a non-partisan way.”
In addition to Carnes, officers of the local league include Michigan City Fourth Ward Councilwoman Patricia Boy (President), Betty Lou Nault (1st Vice President), Michigan City Area Schools board member Deb Chubb (2nd Vice President) and Jan Chamberlin (Treasurer). Margaret Cunningham, Janet Greenwald, Kathryn Tackett and Sue Webster serve as directors.
The League of Women Voters is strictly nonpartisan; it neither supports nor opposes candidates for office at any level of government. The League makes a difference at every level of government because of the energy and passion of thousands of members around the country who work together to safeguard our democracy.