We did it, everybody. After a seemingly endless campaign, we're almost to the finish line. There's just one last thing to do: vote.
The presidential race has taken the spotlight these past months, but it's nowhere near the only thing you'll vote for on Election Day.
Depending on who you ask, it might not even be the most important thing you'll be voting for (and you may not even know it). Overshadowed by the talk of Trump versus Clinton are some really important down-ballot races going on that might determine your next senator, governor, congressperson, and much more.
That's where BallotView comes in.
When it comes to getting information about down-ballot races, finding what you need isn't always easy. BallotView, a website created by five students at the University of Southern California, could change that.
Designed to be a simple, intuitive, and user-friendly way for voters to gather essential election information, BallotView accomplishes what several others have tried throughout the past several years. Visitors to the website simply have to type in their address and they'll be shown what is essentially a sample ballot for all races specific to their federal, state, and local elections.
Even better, the interface provides some background information on candidates and propositions, sourced from Ballotpedia, and allows users to save their completed sample ballot for use on election day.
Facebook and Twitter recently rolled out similar tools aimed at helping people get the info they need to make informed decisions.
BallotView's creators — Andrew Jiang, Michael Lim, Lucas Johnson, Alex Teboul, and Arush Shankar — want to make sure voters go into the voting booth fully informed.
In California, more than a dozen propositions that have immense consequences for the state are put on the ballot each election. In 2008, for example, the state's voters approved Proposition 8, a measure that revoked same-sex marriage rights from citizens (though this was later overturned by the Supreme Court).
This year is no different with measures dictating the future of the death penalty, a question of whether to ban plastic bags, and questions on the pricing of prescription drugs all up for a vote.
Down-ballot measures matter in a big, big way.
Yes, the president is an important role, but whether the president will be able to implement much of their agenda depends on which party controls the House of Representatives, the Senate, and even, to some degree, state governorships and legislatures. From what laws will pass to how those laws will be implemented and enforced to what Supreme Court nominees actually make it onto the court, these are areas where down-ballot votes will affect the country.
Informed voters are good voters. Good voters make for a more accountable government.
“If people aren’t aware of what is going to be voted on, then it just kind of opens the door for either poorly written legislation or allowing special interest groups to make their way onto the ballot,” explained Lim, an economics and neuroscience student, in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “We’re hoping that our product can help people sift through all the information in a much friendlier and quicker way, so that they don’t feel overwhelmed and [instead] feel empowered.”
There's nothing worse (OK, there are actually many things worse) than rolling up to your polling place and not knowing who you're going to vote for. But knowing that is a big deal!
What is Prop 79? Where does this candidate stand on environmental rights? What even IS a comptroller?
If you're going to take part in the democratic process (and hopefully you do because, yes, your voice deserves to be heard), you're going to want to be as informed as possible going into the voting booth. Otherwise, you run the risk of looking — and feeling — a little bit foolish.
How foolish? Well, check out this video put together by the team at BallotView where they asked people what their positions were on a few fake propositions!