Have US voters received enough information on what is going to be on the ballot? Kaitlyn Pisaruk’s take on the ‘174 extra questions.’
Registering – my experience
As a first time voter requesting an absentee ballot, I was not sure how to begin. Typing into Google ‘voting overseas as a resident of Colorado’ – the first link displayed led me to a form where I entered basic information, along with my SSN to verify my identity. That was it, easy enough (I was lucky to register on time). Within a week I received a Colorado state ballot in the post. That was 1 month ago, and I have yet to fill it in.
With the best intentions of voting in an informed way, I watched the three televised presidential debates and kept up to date on news articles, press releases, and policy opinions.
However, when I opened my ballot, there were 16 presidential candidates to choose from and an additional 23 questions relating to Congress, the Senate, and amendments to the constitutions for Colorado. I knew there would be additional questions besides the presidential candidate, but I had no idea there would be that many. Apparently, compared to other states, Colorado has significantly more presidential options. How could I choose who and what to vote for if everything I had been reading and hearing was focused on President Obama and Governor Romney?
I want to make an informed decision in the US election. But the magnitude and complexity of my ballot is discouraging. Colorado is not the only state. According to the BBC, there are an extra 174 questions state-wide incorporated into the presidential ballot ranging from death penalty, to casinos, and fluoride in water supplies.
Understanding the ballot
In a search to understand what my vote was actually contributing to, I went to various websites, and in the end came to: http://onyourballot.vote411.org/. By entering the postcode of my previous town and confirming the county it resides, I was presented with an interactive platform which listed 9 out of the 23 questions from my ballot and the candidates running. This was extremely helpful in providing information on each debate and the implications of my vote.
For the rest of the 14 questions, I had to Google candidates names, read a couple of sentences on their views, and then decide. This process took the better part of two hours.
In my position at Involve, I am around experts in participation processes and engagement of citizens. I can’t help but wonder – is this effective participation?
I am a citizen that wants to engage – I want to believe my vote counts, and I want to know what I am voting for. This was my motivation in achieving a basic understanding of candidates. What is the motivation behind registered voters who don’t have access to information on every question? How are Colorado voters meant to understand the impact and importance of every question on the ballot?
It seems that I am not the only one who is frustrated. The Denver Channel reports on how over 2,000 early voter ballots have been spoiled as citizens are voting for more than one president. These voters might not be discouraged by the same reason I am, but it would be interesting to find out.
I wanted to ‘participate’ and I did – through hours of preparation and research. I sifted through information because I wanted to understand. Despite the fact this election campaign has cost $2.4 billion dollars – have voters received all of the information? Not information on the presidential candidates…but the other 174 questions.