Seattle developers release new open source tool to combat ballot fatigue

Image licensed under Creative Commons obtained on flickr

A recent poll says that WA residents may be experiencing initiative overload. Here are two tools you can use to make better sense of your ballot, considering we have near record number of initiatives printed on it this year.

The first is a new website unveiled this week at Seattle City Club’s recent lunch event. It’s called the Living Voters Guide, and it’s funded by the National Science Foundation. Not only is the idea really cool with an easy to understand layout, it is also a multi-pronged tool that can be used to serve numerous roles.

1. To help educate voters on ballot initiatives, including Pros/Cons (you can fill in and share your own!), as well as your stance compared to others.

2. To grab valuable data on the initiative process itself.

The team behind the Living Voters Guide includes researchers at the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement at the University of Washington. I can’t say for certain what they will do with all this great data they are collecting (not just people’s opinions, but how long they spend forming those opinions) but I’m sure it can potentially reveal some key insights on how functional and democratic the initiative process is, (or perhaps isn’t).

3. To influence voters who would otherwise be undecided, and possibly recruit voters who would otherwise skip the initiative, feeling like they don’t know enough to make an informed decision.

I am also giving bonus thumbs up because The Living Voter Guide is built on an open source platform. Something new called ConsiderIt that apparently enables the creation of crowd interactive pro/con lists.

On top of that, a bonus bonus toes up because they have an easy to understand Privacy and Data collection policy that anonymizes the users IP address and Geolocation (through one way hash tag encryption), thus allowing people to contribute their opinions without worrying about retaliation for saying something controversial.


A second website to try is called BallotPedia.

It’s built with the same exact technology as the ever lovable Wikipedia, and functions just about the same.
Definitely worth an exploration.

Let us know about your experiences with these tools in the comments or over at our Community. I’m anxious to see how they are being adopted.


About Jacob Caggiano
JACOB CAGGIANO is the Council’s Communication Strategist. It’s his job to pitch ideas and get audiences to latch on. He also dedicates long hours behind the scenes working with the website, the Washington News Lab, and other experiments designed to change the way we interact with news and information. Connect with Jacob in the Washington News Council Community.


  1. Also would like to point out two upcoming FREE local public forums being organized by the League of Women Voters to help clear the fog on upcoming initatives. See copy of the email sent out below:

    “The League of Women Voters of Greater Seattle offers the public two free
    forums to examine the numerous issues and initiatives appearing on the ballot in the November 2 election. Advocates for both sides of all the issues and initiatives
    have been invited to participate, and members of the audience may ask questions.

    On Thursday, October 7, 7:30 – 9:00 PM, the first forum at Seattle First Baptist Church (Harvard and Seneca) will consider issues of more local interest plus the two statewide liquor sales initiatives.

    On Wednesday, October 13 but starting at 7:00 PM, the second forum will consider the remaining statewide issues and be held at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Bellevue, 2650 – 148th Ave. S.E., opposite Bellevue Community College. Ample parking is accessible from 28th.

    For more information contact the League office 206-329-4848 and online Directions to St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Bellevue are available at

    Celebrating 100 years of votes for women in the State of Washington, 1910-
    2010 and the 90th Anniversary of the League of Women Voters!”


  1. [...] posted here:  Seattle developers release new open source tool to combat ballot … This entry was posted on Friday, September 24th, 2010 at 11:34 pm and is filed under News, [...]

  2. [...] Check out the full post, and get a link to the guide, over here. [...]