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January Common Ground E-Newsletter

6 February 2014

2013:  Started with a whimper, ended with a small roar! 
by Adelaide Kimball

The last five years have been tough on non-profits.   Starting back in 2008, a number of supporting foundations pulled out of voter education.  The next year a couple of our members filled the gap with $400,000 in unexpected, welcome gifts.  Because of  those windfalls, we were able to develop and release VoteEasy in 2010, the first of our powerful interactive tools for voter.  It hit a home run and showed us the way to empower millions of voters with the truth about their candidates and representatives.

  Now, as we develop new, more powerful systems such Political Galaxy, I Spy, VoteEasy 2014, and My Vote Smart, our costs are skyrocketing--and again, our members are saving the day. 

They have given almost 200 gift memberships to friends and family members who we hope will continue to support Vote Smart on their own.  And we had a flurry of large donations and bequests in the last month of 2013.  In fact, we were stunned to calculate that just 13 members gave Vote Smart just over $153,000 total in December.

Most of us cannot afford to make charitable gifts this large, nor will we be leaving large estates behind.  But it is inspiring to see the generosity and faith our members place in our hands and work.  These year-end gifts are going to make it possible for us to debut powerful new help for voters in the 2014 elections.

 Stick with us through your donations, gift memberships, and volunteer work and we will make you proud.  We are about to set the new standard in voter education, voter self-defense and give every citizen the power of knowledge in the extreme.  If you would like to speak with us regarding other ways to support Vote Smart, contact me at 406-859-8683 or  Thank you!

News for University of Texas
by Darren McDivitt

We are busy at the University of Texas at Austin office as we prepare our office for our spring interns! We chose 22 highly qualified individuals from a pool of 78 applicants, and look forward to their start. The Key Votes staff are also covering remaining 2013 legislation. We saw several key legislative trends in 2013, especially in relation to firearms. The department is covering state prohibitions and exemptions on the enforcement of federal firearms regulations fairly heavily right now, such as in Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, and Alaska. We expect this trend to continue into 2014. While Texas (along with MT, NV, and ND) does not have a 2014 session, we are excited to cover the other 46 states and Congress as they begin passing legislation in the new year! 

New Year, New Vote Smart
by Laura Enriquez

January is a season of renewal for the world and so it is for Vote Smart, as well. In the new year, we are introducing a host of new tools that will make searching our expansive database as easy as possible. We have I Spy, which will enable the user to instantly review all of any politician’s factual record. We are updating our popular VoteEasy tool for the midterms elections. And the program that we are most excited about, Political Galaxy (see preview below), a powerful, interactive research tool that enables you to instantly see all the factual information on any politician, on any issue, will be launched.

We expect our new Website to go live in February, our I Spy feature to be available in March, Political Galaxy in April and our updated VoteEasy program by August. Keep an eye out because we are looking forward to keeping you updated on our progress.

Meet the Vote Smart Staff

This month we are introducing you to a Legislative Research Associate from our University of Texas, Austin office: Dilip Kanuga.

Birthday: January 23

Hometown: Brownsville, Texas

Education: The University of Texas at Austin 2009-2013 - Government and History double major

What were you doing before joining the Vote Smart team?: I worked in a Texas House Representative's office in the 83rd Legislature, and I was finishing up my undergraduate studies at UT, eager to find the right start to my career.

What have you found most interesting about working for Vote Smart?: What I have found most interesting about working for Vote Smart is the amount of young students - younger than me - with different backgrounds - different than my own - who all believe in Vote Smart's mission. Also, I have truly enjoyed having the opportunity to read bill texts on important and relevant matters throughout all 50 states and Congress. Not many people can say that!

What do you do for fun in Austin?: There are a lot of fun things to do in Austin but I think visiting the great restaurants and food trucks scattered throughout the entire city would have to be at the top of my list because there's always something different to try. Also, watching a movie at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is always a fun thing to do on the weekends. 

Related tags: blog, e-newsletter, gifts, interns, key-votes, staff-members, Texas, vote-easy

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