VoteWise.net is a website where voters and politicians can connect without advertising dollars getting in the way. The site is live, but we are still fine-tuning. While we work out the kinks and learning the politicial landscape, we are focusing on areas near our offices. To a lesser degree, we are also covering low hanging fruit like national elections and major cities. As our resources grow, we intend on extending our coverage.
By simply typing in where you live, you get connected with a world of knowledge about your politicians. Not only can you push aside the masks of political double-speak to find out what your politicians truly stand for, but you can tell them what you want them to do and find organizations that can help you. Each candidate and every elected official can fill out multiple-choice questionnaires rating the issues in order of importance to them. They tell us, for each issue, where they stand and how passionate about the topic they are.
According to a 2006 Pew Research poll, almost half of eligible voters say they don’t vote regularly because they don’t know enough about the candidates. VoteWise could fix that because all the information is easily accessible in one place with great detail. Voters would no longer have to follow the drama created by media over months and months. They wouldn’t have to decipher politically evasive language. And they would no longer have to vote blindly along party lines.
So, why would a politician use this site instead of what has worked for decades? Well, for a lot of politicians, “politics as usual” hasn’t worked for them. People who want to talk about the issues, people who care, have been kicked aside.... This is their path to success. We expect the early adopters to be candidates who either have little money for advertising or are being far outspent by their competition. This would include people running for school board in major cities, people running for mayor in small towns, non-front runners who are running for state office, and third party candidates running in any election. Eventually, as voters get used to using the site, they will expect other politicians to be more forthcoming with their platforms. Peer pressure and comfort with the site will likely make national candidates start to make some use of the site down the road. But even if it never expands beyond local politics, it could have an incredible impact on America. If you look at Illinois, for example, there are eight cities where candidates have significant advertising dollars, but the state has 102 counties, 2,731 municipalities and townships, 912 public school systems, and 3,249 special districts. And even in cities like Chicago, there isn’t much information out there for the smaller offices without VoteWise.
This is a way for candidates to get their message out to their voters and get poling data absolutely free. If this site is successful, it will take the power away from the deep pockets that pay for political advertising and return the power to the voters and the discussion of great ideas. It is a return to the idea that all men are created equal. Great ideas instead of great pocketbooks will again rule the day.
Other parts of the site will include brief tutorials on how to read through political speak, what each of the different parties stand for, what the responsibilities of each elected position include (like what exactly does an ombudsman do) and other useful information.
In order to truly accomplish anything, you need the people, the politicians, the press, and the organizations that deal with the issues every day to work together. So we have tools availibale for all of them on VoteWise.net
(some of these tools are still under construction)
Voters will be able to:
Politicians will be able to:
Organizations will be able to:
Press will be able to:
Information on the candidates:
When voters type in their address, they will get a list of all the candidates in their area and the offices that they are running for. When they click on the candidates they will be able to see how they chose to answer some questions on the issues. Almost all questions are multiple choice, forcing people to come up with black and white answers that can be compared side by side. But every question lets you also add comments, because life doesn't always fit into multiple choice. This provides both a clear position and an ability to discuss further. If they answer enough questions, then we will also provide a link to their website. Voters will also be able to click on multiple candidates to see how each candidate answered the multiple-choice questions in a side-by-side comparison. Their answers will be kept in the databanks from year to year so you can see if their voting records match their words. If they change their answers, a note will pop up stating that they changed their position and a box will be provided to allow the politician to explain why they changed their position.
Except in the case of primaries, the candidates will not be grouped by party because this often leads to voters looking only at the candidates within their own party. We want to encourage the idea that great ideas come from all parties and we all need to listen to each other.
We will not allow images of the politicians on the site as many studies have show that this can distract voters from the issues too.
Educating the Voter
The website also goes to great lengths to teach the voter about the political process so that they understand what the politicians are saying. On one page it discusses the different political parties and the logic behind why each system might work. On another page, it defines commonly used terms.
Politicians use manipulative techniques and linguistics to sway their audience. Fortunately, most of them use the same techniques and linguistics, so it becomes easy to create a guide for voters on how to read through it and break this power. Politicians will be forced to evolve their language but we should be able to stay up with them. In the meantime, the users of VoteWise.net will be able to translate what the politicians are actually saying and at the same time actively distrust them.
Last but certainly not least, in order to promote the free exchange of ideas, there will be a user forum where users can debate the issues. If politicians desire, they may look in and see what their constituents feel or get involved in the debate themselves.
The Power of Free Speech:
The Constitution was created with the idea that free speech would allow great intellectual discussion amongst all Americans. And the fruit of this discussion would include the selection of great leaders. But since the start, the process has been usurped by one force or another. At first, only land-owners could vote. Then just white men. Eventually, every adult American could vote, but the communities were now too big to stand on a soapbox and holler your speeches. You had to buy advertising – and that costs money. With the invention of the internet, we had the ability to get our messages out without spending money on air time or physical literature. But the internet is such a vast space, that most messages get lost in the crowd. A voter has to already know about a candidate in order to do a search for them. In addition, throughout the centuries, politicians have learned that if they are to appeal to a wide audience, they need to focus on their image instead of their ideas. They have discovered that if you create a good enough image, and then say something really vague, the voter will use his or her imagination to fill in the blanks with answers that agree with their image of you as a person they would like.
Votewise.net fixes these problems... but only with your help.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
Together we can return democracy to the people.