Across the nation, elections offices are moving further and further away from a paper society and allowing residents to do everything electronically, whether it’s registering to vote, requesting an absentee ballot, or in some recent experiments, even voting online. One stronghold remains though: the printed and mailed voters’ guide.
Moving to online-only voter guides is seen by many as the obvious response to budget cuts for an electorate living with 21stcentury technologies. Printed voter guides are a tradition that voters across the nation have come to expect in the weeks leading up to an election, yet they are costly to compile, print, and mail, and their information is often duplicated online at lower costs.
A recent case study in California by the Pew Center on the States’ found that ―by disseminating voter information through e-mail or the Web, counties could save up to nine percent of their election expenses if a portion of their voters agreed to cancel paper mailings.‖ While cost savings depend on the number of voters who opt out, research estimates that counties in California could cut back up to 9 percent of their election expenses if a portion of voters agreed to cancel paper mailings.
Election offices are one provider of voter guides in a sea of nongovernmental organizations that provide voter guides online, through civic groups and mailings. Most prominent amongst this group are the League of Women Voters, Project Vote Smart, the Voter Guide,eVoter and Imagine Election. These groups, in addition to dozens of others, provide supplements to official information from election offices.
“The League covers everything in an election, but chapters have to pick and choose when to cover,” said the League of Women Voters’ director of elections and e-democracy, Jeannette Senecal, explaining that voter guides length and coverage are determined by the amount of funds raised by local chapters.