October 26, 2011

Living Voters Guide updated for November election

The Living Voters Guide is powered for the Nov. 8 election, updated with the three statewide ballot initiatives, two state constitutional amendments and 120 local and regional measures.

Ads for the Living Voters Guide have been mounted on Metro Transit buses.

ClearChannel Outdoor

Ads for the Living Voters Guide have been mounted on Metro Transit buses.

Actually, the guide is powered by citizens. Its a website that helps ordinary voters form and share their opinions with other people, together producing a citizen-written voters guide. The guide was created for the 2010 ballot initiatives, but this year, regional and local measures have been added along with additional means for sharing opinions.

“The guide offers citizens an opportunity to hear the voices of other citizens directly, not filtered through campaigns or organizations,” said Alan Borning, a UW professor of computer science and engineering and a co-leader of the project. Borning was joined by Lance Bennett, a UW professor of political science and communication; doctoral students Travis Kriplean, Sheetal Agarwal, Deen Freelon and Jonathan Morgan; and Seattle CityClub Executive Director Diane Douglas.

The guide initially asks voters to indicate their opinion of a particular  initiative  — for example 1183, which would privatize liquor sales — by moving an arrow on a line. Instructions then offer columns of pros and cons, asking voters to move their choices into a center box, and update their stance if it changes. Voters can also write their own pro and con points, and add them to the pool for others to use.

The subsequent page shows a breakdown of voters according to their opinions on the initiative. The week of Oct. 23, for example, the largest group of voters, almost 30 percent, strongly supported Initiative 1183.

As means of communication have increased, people are increasingly selecting outlets that echo their personal experiences, and it has polarized opinions, Bennett said. “Forums such as the Living Voters Guide encourage civil discourse about important issues,” he said. Bennett plans to elaborate on these ideas when he delivers the University Faculty Lecture on Nov. 30.