Summit County, Ohio, Using Tech to Create New Voter Resource

When early voting begins in Ohio on Oct. 8, the guide will be live on Ohio.com and Vote411.org. The county intends to publish excerpts of online responses in a print edition in late October.

by Michael Shearer, Akron Beacon Journal / August 20, 2019
Shutterstock

(TNS) — Imagine entering your home address online and instantly seeing your screen filled with a sample ballot customized for your neighborhood with links to information on every candidate and issue.

You can read the candidates' responses to questions, review their qualifications for office and make your choices using real information.

That's our vision for a new Summit County Voter Guide.

It's a massive undertaking with roughly 300 candidates expected to appear on ballots Nov. 5 in this heavy local year of races for councils, school boards and trustees.

But it's happening thanks to a new partnership between the Akron and Hudson chapters of the League of Women Voters and the Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com with sponsorship support from the Knight Foundation.

While I've built and managed voter guides before in other markets, this is a new way for both the newspaper and the league to serve our greater community.

In recent months, I learned that the Akron and Hudson chapters collect candidate information for their respective parts of Summit County. When I asked if they would be willing to expand their efforts with support from our newsroom and marketing, they quickly said yes.

Here's how it works. First, we need candidates to enter their email addresses at Ohio.com/candidates as soon as possible. In early September, we will email candidates a link to a questionnaire they can fill out. It will include basic biographical information and questions that candidates can answer.

We will then review all of the responses and approve or reject them, the latter only occurring if we deem comments to be libelous or not appropriate. We will not edit the responses or fix typos. If candidates do not respond, their entries will be blank.

When early voting begins in Ohio on Oct. 8, the guide will be live on Ohio.com and Vote411.org. We intend to publish excerpts of responses in the print edition in late October, although I am still working on the details.

My experience tells me online voter guides are hugely popular with readers, especially in the 72 hours before Election Day. It's a great use of technology to improve our democracy by giving voters unfiltered information straight from the candidates. The tool also can lessen confusion about what's on your ballot, which will be especially important next year with state legislative and congressional races dominating television with commercials for races outside your voting district.

We're thrilled to be working with the League of Women Voters and Knight Foundation on this important community service project. But we will need candidates to respond as soon as possible. If you know any, please give them a nudge.

©2019 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Platforms & Programs