League of Women Voters Illinois (LWVIL) recently launched a new online Illinois Voter Guide to help voters educate themselves before they head to the polls in November.
LWV Chicago Voter Service Chair Helene Gabelnick, said the new guide allows voters to look up descriptions of all of the local and state positions that will be on the ballot in November as well as the candidates running.
“What it will have is the list of everybody who’s on your ballot, all the candidates, and it will have the referenda as well,” Gabelnick said. “If you click on someone, it will give you information on that particular candidate and that information comes directly from the candidate’s website.”
Voters will also be able to see what people, publications or organizations have endorsed each candidate, Gabelnick said
To begin, voters will go to the website, enter in their address and the online guide will take them to the appropriate page for their election ballot. From there, voters can read descriptions of the typical responsibilities associated with each position that will be on the ballot.
State Board Member of LWVIL Jennifer Grochowski said voters can browse information on all of the candidates including what kind of stance candidates have taken on different political issues.
“So, you can see any of the issue areas that they have publicly taken a position on and then you can also see which issues candidates may have chosen not to take a position on,” Grochowski said.
According to Grochowski, candidate information is pulled from campaign websites, local LWV questionnaires and different news outlets into the voter guide through a partnership with BallotReady. All information provided on the guide is nonpartisan and solely meant to inform voters, she said,
To watch a YouTube tutorial on how to use the online voter guide, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqEqz9_NiT4&feature=youtu.be.
Although the Illinois Voter Guide has already been launched, the specific candidate information for Illinois is not yet available.
“We’re definitely committing to having that information available by October first so that individuals have time to really utilize the tool,” Grochowski said. “But for now, we’re just encouraging individuals to go to the site and sign up so we can send you an email reminder once the full guide is ready.”
Once the guide is available, it can be accessed at illinoisvoterguide.org. For now, voters are encouraged to visit https://lwvil.civicengine.com/ to sign up to receive an alert when the guide is ready as well as reminders of other important dates.
“The guide now allows you to set reminders and put important dates right into your smart phone’s calendar so that you can make a plan, find where your polling location is so that once you’ve done your research you’re all ready to go,” Grochowski said.
The league also is working on adding the dates of all of the LWV’s candidate forums to the voter guide’s calendar so voters know when there is a forum event happening in their area, she said.
One of the most helpful features of the guide is that voters can actually fill out a practice ballot with all of the candidates for which they choose to vote.
Voters in Cook County who have filled out the practice ballot can actually bring their smart phones into the voter booths with them on Election Day, according to Grochowski.
For those people who live in districts that do not allow smart phones in the voter booth, practice ballots can also be printed out to use as a reference at the polls.
“The idea is that by the time you are showing up to the polls, you already know what you’re going to do it’s not going to be like once you get in the booth that you’re guessing,” Grochowski said. “We feel like that is often a barrier, especially in midterm elections, that people just avoid going to the polls because they are unsure what to do or who to vote for.”
This tool, she said, is especially helpful for Cook County residents as they will be asked to vote on a long list of local positions this November.
“Here in Chicago, we have one of the longer ballots in the country so it can be very intimidating,” Grochowski said. “This way, you’re giving yourself the time to do that research on a timeframe that works for you so you don’t have to do it all at once.”
LWVIL is launching a social media campaign to let voters know that the guide is available to them. The league also will be giving out informational materials to LWV voter registrars so that they can hand them out at any and all voter registration events.
“We hope the Illinois Voter Guide will not only reach members,” Bonnie Cox, president of LWVIL, said in a press release. “But the wider communities we hope to empower through their vote.”
The Illinois Voter Guide is a tool that can be used for all future elections, not just the midterm election on Nov. 6. LWVIL is already planning to add information on the Chicago municipal elections coming up in the spring, Grochowski said.
— New online Illinois voter guide provides profiles, policies and more—-