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Citizen Voices

Voting And Peer Pressure In The Information Age

With one week to go, my mind's made up on this year's ballot, but for those who are still undecided, a little help in finest of American traditions.  Peer pressure.  

Everyone's different.  Some of you want to be the sheep in the crowd.  Others will want to be the rebel without a cause.  Just like with arbritrary statistics , there's something for everyone and it all depends on how you want to frame the question.  

Let's start with possibly respected institutions.  Do you value the Union-Tribune's endorsements, or would you use them as a guide for what to vote against?  Same question for the alphabet soups of the AARP, ACLU, CTA, SDTA, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  You're in luck.  The UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies library maintains a chart of this year's statewide ballot initiatives indexed by the endorsements and recommendations of 42 different media organizations and other groups.  

On the other hand, we all know that money talks in an election cycle.  Maybe your neighbor or supervisor doesn't like yard signs, or just won't talk politics.  That's no excuse for not knowing their preferences.  Many campaign contributions are reportable to the government, and the magic of the internet has made that information accessible from the nearest desktop. is one of several sites offering campaign contribution data, allowing random people on the internet to search by name or just browse their zip code to see who supported whom financially.  

I've been a big fan of these types of sites since seeing the impact of the KnowThyNeighbor project a few years ago, and really wish that project (or a similar effort) included data on the current effort to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.  Public disclosure laws can only make a difference when public records become truly accessible.

Just remember that while your ballot might be secret, at least until someone succeeds in the effort to mandate printed receipts that your supervisor, union official or spouse can demand to see, little else is.  This is the information age.

Alma Sove from San Diego
October 31, 2008 at 04:14 PM
Hi Chuck, I too am a big fan of websites compiling donor lists and voting information, especially for tightly contested races or ones where the candidates seem to "hide the ball" so to speak. Running for office seems predicated on receiving lots of money, and I"m not sure what a politician is supposed to do when approached w/sacks of cash given by a less-than-desirable donor. At the same time though, politicians refusing those donations can really send a message out to constituents that they stand for something. Can't wait to see the results of Prop 8 votes! There will be no re-framing of the issue if a politician wants support from certain voters and then votes against marriage equality with his or her yes vote. It's going to be a lot like Prop 187 was for Mexican-Americans during Pete Wilson's tenure. We will not forget!