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Toss those Voter Info Pamphlets?

July 4, 2014

voterinfoI recently met Patrick Valentino, spokesperson against San Francisco’s Proposition B in the June 2014 election, which mandates that any proposed waterfront building exceeding height limits must be approved by public vote. I’ve always spoken out against the development of high-rises blocking the view for the rest of the city, but after chatting with Patrick about the details; seeing that SPUR, SF Chronicle, League of Conservation Voters, Parks Alliance, SF Democratic Party, Housing Action Coalition, the Labor Council, and others also opposed Prop B; and then listening to the NPR debate about Prop B, I’m more confused than ever about the truth, and what’s best for the city as its population grows.

Sometimes there is obvious propaganda from evil-doers this is unfortunately effective (flashbacks to Monsanto’s multi-million dollar ad campaign right before Prop 37‘s predicted landslide, which turned the expected win for labeling GMOs into a loss).

But often, it’s hard for even informed citizens to differentiate fact from propaganda. Why is it so hard for us to get complete info? We get the Voter Information Pamphlets in the mail, but they’re so incomplete and so often skewed, they don’t really help. Personally, I end up tossing them in the trash recycling.

Currently, the only hope for us to vote intelligently is to:

  • Spend a lot of time researching every candidate and every proposition ourselves – Veto: unrealistic.
  • Read the Voter Information Pamphlets – Veto: skewed, limited and/or bad-quality info.
  • Go by organizations’ endorsements – All We’ve Got: binary thumbs up or thumbs down.

What if we had a single place online (calling which provided one, easily-navigable, easily-scannable database of all the candidates and propositions, and allowed citizens to see right there in one place which organizations and businesses endorsed each of them AS WELL AS short paragraphs of a standardized length written by each endorsing entity containing qualitative, descriptive reasoning behind their endorsement or opposition AND one or two links to supporting resources for more information.

Then, each organization wouldn’t need to spend the time and money trying to publicize their positions (which is totally inefficient anyway), and could instead focus on their core program work (which is undercapitalized across the board for nonprofits already). And then we citizens would actually be able to get the info we need to make informed choices, whether that means a quick scan of endorsers if we’re time-pressed, or more thorough research of resources recommended by trusted endorsing entities.

Wow, that would be huge, and it’s not even hard to build.

It’s amazing how little progress we’ve made as far as creating learning channels for citizens to get the information they need to vote.  Listening to an hour-long NPR show about each issue and still be confused is not good.

Let’s do this!

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