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Prop what? Judge who? State rep whatever? Don't make this rookie voting mistake.

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.

Prop what? Judge who? State rep whatever? Don't make this rookie voting mistake.

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.


A view of a ballot scanner at a New York City Board of Elections voting machine facility. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

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.

Photo courtesy of Michael Lim.

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.

(L to R) Sophomore Andrew Jiang and seniors Michael Lim, Lucas Johnson, Alex Teboul and Arush Shankar created BallotView to appeal to millennial voters across the country this election season. Photo courtesy of Michael Lim.

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.

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

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.”

Election staff inspect mail-in ballots before scanning them at the King County Department of Elections in Renton, Washington. Photo by Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images.

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!

That's on the ballot? As this hilarious prank shows, we should all be aware of the other issues on our local ballot. (via ballotview.org)

Posted by Upworthy on Saturday, November 5, 2016
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Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.

Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.

Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

On February 19, 2020, a group of outdoor adventurists took a 25-day rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. During the trip, they had no cell service and no contact with the outside world. When they ended they ended their journey on March 14, the man who pulled them ashore asked if they had been in touch with anyone else. When the rafters said no, the man sighed, then launched into an explanation of how the globe had been gripped by the coronavirus pandemic and everything had come to a screeching halt.

The rafters listened with bewilderment as they were told about toilet paper shortages and the NBA season being canceled and everyone being asked to stay at home. One of the river guides, who had done these kinds of off-grid excursions multiple times, said that they'd often joke about coming back to a completely different world—it had just never actually happened before.

The rafters' story was shared in the New York Times last spring, but they're not the only ones to have had such an experience.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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