The League of Women Voters has announced it will expand access to VOTE411.org, a site for nonpartisan information on elections and candidates in all 50 states.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $100,000 to support new delivery tools for VOTE411 information, helping to extend its reach to at least one million more people – including 200,000 from underrepresented groups.
Voter turnout in the United States is among the lowest of all established democracies.
In fact, presidential year turnout is around 60 percent and midterm turnout is around 40 percent. The 2014 election had a 42 percent turnout rate, the lowest since 1942.
One of the more common reasons why people don’t vote is lack of information, the nonprofit said.
The League of Women Voters has run VOTE411.org since 2006. It answers common questions on candidate qualifications, the ballot, polling places and administrative rules. Since its creation, nearly 20,000 websites have linked to the site and 25 million people have accessed the information through VOTE411. The League anticipates that three million people will use the site in 2016, up from two million in 2012, the last presidential election year.
In 2014, the League of Women Voter’s tested an embeddable application that would allow media outlets, government agencies, elections officials and nonprofits to share VOTE411 information on their websites, meeting voters where they are. With Knight funding, the League will expand, develop and market the tool in order to reach millions more people, including those from underrepresented groups. The tool will provide information on all candidates involved in a particular race as well as a broad range of topics of interest to the community.
“Elections ensure that communities are informed and the needs of people are fairly represented. As such, low voter turnout undermines the health of individual communities,” said Shazna Nessa, Knight Foundation director for journalism. “By providing nonpartisan and reliable information about elections and partnering with news organizations and others to widen their reach, the League of Women Voters will help increase participation in elections and help build a stronger democracy.”
“If people don’t vote and use their voice, someone will speak for them,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, chair of the League of Women Voters Education Fund. “This work will help us build a democracy where more voters have easy access to reliable information.”
Funding for the League of Women Voter’s is part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to help ensure citizens have access to important information to help them make decisions about their communities and build stronger democracies. Knight has made many investments in this area including more than $3 million to winners of the Knight News Challenge on Elections, announced in July 2015.