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December Common Ground E-Newsletter

5 December 2014

With the election over, winter has set in at Vote Smart’s Great Divide Ranch Research Center in Montana.

Our staff at both Montana's Great Divide Ranch and The Strauss Institute at the University of Texas has been reviewing their successes over this past year.

8.4 million unique Vote Smart users during the 2014 election, almost twice what we had in the last mid-term elections -- which is just great. Although that represents over 10% of those voting, it was the worst voter turnout in 70 years -- which is just horrid.
5 most looked at issues: Abortion, Middle Class, Marijuana, Gun Control, and Immigration.
15,000 state and federal candidates were updated.
90,000 public statements were collected.
160 ballot measures were tracked.
928 bill summaries were written.
1.3 million dollars were raised.
Each year the staff is invited to make proposals to the board. Here is one the board will consider at next week’s board meeting:
Candidate Hot Seat Proposal
Proposed by: Jamieson Bates, Abigail McNeal, Michael Mowery, and Kristen Vicedomini

The BIG Idea:
We will challenge candidates to pass “entrance exams” as part of their job application for office, taking advantage of satirical techniques to generate interest. At first, this will focus on provocative dimensions that are both humorous and legitimate; for example, issuing candidates an IQ test, or making them pass the Citizenship test, or take a test of Sociopathy.

The Product
We are proposing to administer standardized tests to candidates on a variety of dimensions (including but not limited to the Political Courage Test) and create a platform for both challenging candidates to complete and submit tests, and displaying the results. We would not necessarily endorse any test- we would simply be providing the means and pressure for candidates to be tested on measures deemed valuable or interesting to voters. These tests could range from the serious to the seriously-provocative. Some examples are presented below:
Personality/Behavior Tests: could include the Sociopath Test (used by the CIA to vet candidates) or other Psychology tests; Integrity tests, as used in pre-employment screenings
Core Competencies: for example, the U.S. Citizenship Test (citizenship is a qualification for office after all!) and IQ Test
Job Knowledge: Subject-Based Tests such as Economics/Finance 101, Foreign Policy, etc.
Political Courage Test
Presidential Fitness Test (same as administered to grade schoolers nationwide- note: this might provide valuable video content from candidates)
3rd Party Exams (exams submitted by Interest Groups or other similar orgs.)

The website would be created with the primary purpose of promoting the test, and would include strong social media engagement and interactivity. For example, voters could be urged to vote on the tests that they find the most valuable, contact their candidates, and be given the opportunity to take the tests themselves to see how they compare. We will incorporate gamification techniques where possible to incentivize candidate participation, such as issuing candidates badges for those tests they've successfully completed to place on their own websites.

It is hoped that the introduction of gamification techniques and an increase in recent national media coverage and viral attention would help with candidate participation, but given the recent response to our Political Courage Test this may not be realistic. If we find this to be the case, it is unlikely that we could justify continued development of this program beyond “Phase 2” as listed below. However, it is not expected that this would compromise our primary objective of engaging the public, and we would still be able to provide a key component of candidate assessment: whether candidates are willing to take the test or not.
A number of questions have already been raised about this proposal. If you would like to comment on it, please do so.
Below you will find an ad we used during past holidays to give members an opportunity to give out memberships in Vote Smart during the season.
Much of it still applies, but with these differences:

A gift membership only costs $5 per person named and you can name up to 5 people.

For each person, we need the name, mailing address and email if possible.

Each person will receive a welcome letter from the Vote Smart Board listing you as the gift giver, a copy of our most recent Voter’s Self-Defense Manual, a brochure outlining Vote Smart’s free programs and services along with a DVD showing what we do and how we do it. And as long as they last, a flashlight pen with our logo saying “Bring the Truth to Light.”

It is a great way to show people what you have built here at Vote Smart.

Simply return a response to this email with your name or names and we will trust you to send us the $5 to cover some costs of each new member you list. If you prefer you can simply call us at 1-888-Vote Smart and ask for Stephen or Jamieson in our Membership Department. 

Related tags: 2014-election, blog, e-newsletter, gifts

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