David- I am the Data Director for BallotReady helping manage our data collection process of candidate info, measures and more!

Becky- I am our vote by mail coordinator for 2020 helping BallotReady and users navigate the complex vote by mail system for each state.

Louisa- I am here from voter support to help voters use our tool and understand their ballots.

Kunal- I am here from our partnerships and growth team and want to help you share BallotReady with your friends, family, and community so that as many people vote informed as possible this year.

Visit www.BallotReady.org to view your ballot and make a plan to vote. (watch our 90 second explainer: https://youtu.be/azu5hU0jyPU)

Check out our research process- https://about.ballotready.org/research-process

Want to share BallotReady with your community? - https://about.ballotready.org/

Want to know our privacy policy? https://about.ballotready.org/privacy-policy

Want custom branded digital voter tools? - www.civicengine.com

Want voting themed merch? - https://shop.ballotready.org

Proof: https://twitter.com/BallotReady/status/1318883035710935040

EDIT: (1:20CST) We need to get back to work so we can make sure there is enough information on our site to help all voters be informed this year. Feel free to ask more questions for us and we can drop in later to provide support.

5:00 CST - We will still answer your questions! Please keep asking. We love voters.

Comments: 175 • Responses: 34  • Date: 

Sherezad175 karma

I can find decent info on the partisan positions but not as easily when it comes to things like the School Board positions and even State Supreme Court officials. Is there a good resource for this other than hoping you clicked the right FB account?

BallotReady146 karma

This is one of the things we struggle with too. We find that very few school board candidates have much of a web presence, and judges like to keep their web presence balanced without speaking to their judicial opinions.

Our current research process is is limited to reporting what candidates share about themselves on their campaign websites. However, we've found that local newspapers and outlets have done questionnaires or interviews with local candidates, which could help in your research. We'll be investigating how we can add these resources to our site in the future. - David

Sherezad81 karma

I just realized that I used your resource when looking up my local positions up for election.

Thank you again.

BallotReady31 karma

So glad we were able to be a resource for you! - David

aihwao50 karma

This question is somewhat off topic, but one that I think that you can nonetheless speak to: As a CA resident, I was mailed a ballot publication (the CA voter guide) with supposed arguments for and against different propositions for my area. I found the publication to be horribly written -- the arguments/rebuttals simply contradicted each other without offering citations of proposed legislation, and without offering reasonable basis to make an informed decision.

Your website offers succinct arguments that are summaries of propositions, but these are drawn from the voter guide itself. Take proposition 14 for instance (selling bonds to fund stem cell research). The voter is offered a choice between a)support prop 14 for health benefits and added on economic boost and b)vote NO because it costs too much, and the Center for Society and Genetics in Berkeley found that economic benefits would not be significant. But nowhere that I can see is there a reference to detailed studies of economic impacts. There are claims but no real substantial arguments. Where are the citations and links that we need to fully understand how arguments are made? [I'll ignore for the moment that one of the MDs/authors of arguments AGAINST the measure is a Catholic and declared, anti-abortion MD]

How can I, beyond simply writing the elections commission, work for more informed and informational voter guides?

BallotReady27 karma

Thanks for this thoughtful question - not at all off-topic! We source explanations (e.g. “A yes vote means…” and “A no vote means…”) for propositions that pertain to cities and counties with a population over 100k. For cities and counties with a population of over 50k, we will source the measure text but may not be able to go into more detail on what a yes or no vote means. Because there is not a national standard for how voters are educated about propositions, our sources also vary across the country. You’re correct that in California, our explanations relied heavily on the voter guide as it is a reliable source of nonpartisan information for a state with so many voters in it!

In terms of learning more about the arguments for particular propositions: news organizations may potentially have more in-depth coverage about these topics than the state-wide voter guide can cover -- I’m thinking details like interviews with advocates for/against certain measures, etc.

Lastly, in terms of your own advocacy for informed voter guides: I would recommend using the shareable ballot feature of our site! You can add reasons why you support or oppose a certain ballot measure and provide further context to your friends and followers. - Louisa

BallotReady8 karma

Here's what that shareable ballot feature looks like on our site! https://imgur.com/a/vNFnPSv - Louisa

BallotReady17 karma

In general, we try to stick with official resources as much as possible so that we're not editorializing our personal views on ballot measures. When states like CA put out voter guides, we use that as our information source. We recognize that these can be written in a manner that's less than transparent, but we prefer those official resources over us writing summaries and missing a major point.

In other states, where comprehensive voter guides aren't provided, we do source yes/no arguments from advocacy groups or op-eds on both sides of the issue to provide more context to voters. - David

lathe_down_sally18 karma

My initial reaction was "great, a resource I can use and share with others", but the site seems to ask for a lot of personal info that doesn't seem relevant to the information you claim to provide, and frankly I've become overly wary about giving out things like my phone number and email address.

Why do you need these things?

BallotReady6 karma

Thanks for your question! Other than your address which we need in order to populate the correct ballot for you, anywhere that contact information is requested on ballotready.org is completely optional. We ask for a phone number and/or email address so that you can choose if you’d like to opt-in to reminder notifications regarding things like your plan to vote or future election-related news. If you choose to “sign in” to the site, you can also return to your ballot selections, but you are able to email your ballot to yourself even without signing in. Here is a link to the BallotReady privacy policy. If you would like to share your ballot with friends and family members, you can email or post your ballot to social media once you’ve created it and/or you can head to http://about.ballotready.org/ to see more options for getting involved. 

Please let me know if you have other questions about this! - Louisa

derouse17 karma

A worthy service and aspiration! Can you explain what happens in the backed and in particular where the data is sourced?

BallotReady19 karma

Our data is sourced first and foremost from local election officials. We always start working from official lists of candidates and positions up for election.

From there we primarily consider these different sources of information in an attempt to accurately portray the candidate in the way they present themselves to the public: candidate campaign websites, campaign Facebook pages, campaign Twitter profiles, and LinkedIn pages. We do this for two reasons. First, our mission is to aggregate information to help voters make their own decisions. Second, we link to our sources of information so that an interested voter can always examine the source website for themselves.

-David

drakn3313 karma

How does your information/data collection differ significantly from more established non-partisan services like those offered by the League of Women Voters at vote411.org?

BallotReady12 karma

We can't speak for the research process of other groups, but at BallotReady, we have a dedicated team to call every election office in the country to gather data at hyperlocal level.

Whatever is available through your local officials is available on the tool and the same goes for candidate research from your candidates' websites. Plus, candidates regularly submit their own information for their profiles here.

We personally believe that we provide the most comprehensive voter guide available, but hey, don't just take our word for it- try it out yourself! - KG

radiofever13 karma

Judges. Finding resources to weigh judges on the ballot can be challenging. They exist but it's a patchwork of sources to get through 50 judges (in my case it was 50). And this year with a SCOTUS seat front and center it's even more important.

Why isn't there more comprehensive and organized info on judges? Even on your site almost no information is provided about judges. Education and that's about it.

BallotReady11 karma

We have found the same thing in our research. It's absolutely a patchwork of information. Where there are bar associations completing judicial evaluations, we try to add those in as we see them. One great example is http://www.voteforjudges.org/, which compiles evaluation for Illinois judges. We include these ratings on our site, but it's difficult to find similar resources for other areas. We're always open to including more resources that meet our research criteria!

Another issue we run into is that many judges don't have campaign websites, or if they do, they don't provide much information on their issue stances or judicial philosophy. Staying with our research policies, we often only have their education and work experience to rely on. - David

coryrenton2 karma

What sites or resources would you recommend for getting the inside judicial scoop that are not bound by your research policies? Are there legal whisper networks that most people don't know about?

BallotReady2 karma

I mentioned this on another comment here, but I would recommend searching for the candidate’s name + recommendation/endorsements and seeing what comes up. Sometimes local bar associations or other professional organizations put together ratings or endorsements, as well. - Louisa

pollo_frio12 karma

If I use your website, you then have my street address, IP address, and browser fingerprint. Why would you not have an alternate selection process for me to pick which ballot items apply to me if you have no intention of selling that very personal information?

BallotReady10 karma

Thanks for your question! We need a specific street address because position boundaries (e.g. which voters, based on address, should vote on which candidates) can be as small as a city block. In order to show an accurate ballot, we need to know your location more precisely than just a zip code or city name. This is also required for providing you with an accurate polling location - precinct boundaries are so small that we have to be precise.

When using our site, you could pick a nearby address instead of your own, but we can’t guarantee any accuracy especially for the very hyperlocal races.

In terms of the other details you mentioned: we store saved ballot selections for our users’ ease of use only and delete any saved selections from our database post-election. We do collect browser fingerprint to report errors, but selling user data is not in our business model. If you’d like to see what is part of our business model, feel free to check out https://www.civicengine.com/. - Louisa

jeebers_578 karma

What are your personal party afiiliations? Not asking for individual info. Four people...one Democrat, one Republican, two independent?

BallotReady-3 karma

Thanks for asking. Because we are a nonpartisan organization our staff members don’t share that information explicitly. - Louisa

wendellnebbin8 karma

Researching lower level non-partisan judges can be painfully difficult. Do you have any helpful tips or is it too inconsistent among the various states to make any kind of blanket statement?

BallotReady4 karma

Hi there - access to this information definitely varies so widely across the country that there's no one-size-fits-all response. I would recommend searching for the candidate's name + recommendation/endorsements and seeing what comes up. Sometimes local bar associations or other professional organizations put together ratings or endorsements, as well. - Louisa

Chtorrr5 karma

What would you most like to tell us that no one ever asks about?

BallotReady10 karma

Tons of elections happen outside of November! All over the country, local elections take place throughout the year. Municipal, school board, special water and fire districts - they often have elections in odd years. Voting informed isn't just about voting for president, but voting on all elected officials in your community! - David

BallotReady8 karma

One of the most common reasons an absentee or mail-in ballot might get rejected is the voter's signature not matching the one on their voter registration file. Lots of voters registered to vote several years before now and their signature may have changed. Many voters don't know that they can actually ask to see their recorded signature! In many states, if you provide adequate identification, you can see what signature your ballot will be matched against.

- Becky

BowsettesBottomBitch2 karma

Is there a way to know if your vote has been rejected?

BallotReady2 karma

Yes! If your state has a ballot tracking resource, you can view the status of your ballot & it will tell you if it has been rejected. Additionally, many states are required to make information public about votes that have been rejected along with the reasons for the rejection. Don't ever be afraid to ask your local elections office about the reason - you have a right to know! - Becky

wendellnebbin2 karma

Who/Where would you ask to see this?

BallotReady3 karma

You would contact your county (or town/city) elections office! They will let you know if they offer this service in your state. (edit: adding my name)

- Becky

vio2125 karma

What’s your opinion on the mail-in vote fraud going on all over the country right now? Why should I trust the system and vote early instead of in person when it’s clear that a significant number of ballots are being compromised in some counties?

BallotReady7 karma

It's important to remember that states have official resources for handling mail-in voting. Many of the stories about drop boxes being tampered with come from non-governmental organizations. Voters can find out which drop boxes are provided by their state elections board using our site, ballotready.org. Additionally, many states have official resources for tracking ballots so that voters can check online to see whether their ballot has been received.

We don't use the term "expert" lightly here - we have done extensive research into how elections are handled from state-to-state. With that in mind, the possibility of people voting more than once, or voting under a false identity, is extremely slim.

Finally, voters can actually run into issues if they try to vote in-person but have already requested a mail ballot. In some states, if a voter does not bring their absentee ballot with them to the polls, they will have to cast a provisional ballot. These kinds of ballots slow down the process of voting for everyone - they lead to longer lines and more work for election authorities when it comes to processing and counting ballots. Provisional voting is a great option in case of an emergency, but the safest option is to actually return your mail ballot instead of trying to vote in-person instead.

- Becky

vio21210 karma

Appreciate the thoughtful reply. Thank you.

I do wonder tho, we have videos of people harvesting blank ballots with plans to return them for their candidate. It’s not just a theory, we have video evidence of it.

What can a normal person do to help fight against this?

BallotReady8 karma

I totally see why videos like that would be concerning. Ballot harvesting is somewhat of an overloaded term, but in some states it isn't actually illegal. However, simply filling out a blank ballot on someone else's behalf is certainly illegal.

Again though, states have procedures in place for dealing with this! If someone is filling out a ballot on another's behalf, there are additional steps that must be taken in order for that to be counted. If there aren't two signatures: one for the preparer and one for the voter, these ballots are extremely likely to be rejected (in fact - one of the main reasons ballots get rejected from nursing homes is because of signature mismatches!)

There may be people out there who are trying to cast ballots on behalf of others, but that is actually an extremely difficult process in practice because of the way voter identification is scrutinized and confirmed before the ballot is considered valid.

- Becky

vio2124 karma

Thanks.

You mentioned “voter identification”. We do not have universal voter identification. The signatures in many places have a threshold of a 20% match to be counted. What are you referring to when you say “voter identification”? Here in Colorado you just fill the ballot out, sign it and drop it in. No ID of any kind needed at any step.

BallotReady9 karma

Your signature would be used to verify your identification in that case! Your ID is still needed in order to vote in person, or else your county would have no way of recording whether or not you've already voted!

You can read more about questions around identification on the official Colorado elections website, which explicitly states that an ID is required when voting in person: https://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/FAQs/ElectionDay.html

- Becky

amazing_webhead4 karma

What the hell is a comptroller?

BallotReady2 karma

It's really just a fancy word for Financial Officer. They handle the government's ledger, accounting, financial reporting, payroll, etc. All of the fun stuff with balancing the government checkbook. - David

INEEDAWOODENARM4 karma

What’s the difference between voting for a candidate on the major party line vs say Biden on the Working Families line? Why is this an issue, specifically in New York?

Edit: spelling

BallotReady7 karma

I love talking about New York fusion ballots!

New York has 8 recognized political parties that get automatic ballot access. They can run their own candidates or they can cross-nominate another parties candidate.

Historically, a party has to garner at least 50,000 votes for their candidate in the last gubernatorial election to keep ballot access for the next four years. But New York just passed new legislation on this in early 2020. Now, a political organization must have had a candidate on the ballot in the last gubernatorial election who garnered at least 130,000 votes or 2% of the total votes cast (whichever is greater) AND it must have had a candidate on the ballot in the last presidential election who garnered at least 130,000 votes or 2% of the total votes cast (whichever is greater).

So voting for a presidential candidate under one of the minor party lines gives that party votes to continue for future years. Voting on the major party line will not. - David

Coatol4 karma

I accidentally sealed my outer envelope so I had to reopen it, do I need another outer envelope? (I just threw my ballot in without placing it in the inner envelope) Where would I get one? Should I tape it up and sign it and write a message on it saying how dumb I am?

BallotReady9 karma

Each state has a different process for dealing with this situation. If many states, you can fill out and sign an affidavit (usually found on the official state website) stating that you made a mistake and still wish for your ballot to be counted. In others, you may have to call your county elections office to ask about their process for dealing with this. In the worst case scenario, you can bring your ballot with you to an in-person location, turn it in, and case a vote in-person. - Becky

Greylaw-Hiveless3 karma

What's each of your "most interesting thing" that you've learned doing this research?

BallotReady5 karma

My first week at BallotReady I learned a great trivia fact - the question posed was "Which state has the most state legislators?" The answer is New Hampshire, with over 400 -- which surprised everyone! - Louisa

BallotReady4 karma

For me, it's how many positions go unfilled or have candidates who are unopposed throughout the primary and general elections. Especially at the local level - such as township boards - elections go by with no one being elected or one person being automatically elected over and over. There's much less competition for local elected positions than I thought. - David

BallotReady4 karma

There are so many different kinds of places to drop off an absentee/mail-in ballot! There are handoffs to poll workers, dropboxes located indoors, and dropboxes outside. Many people think they can drop their ballot off at a dropbox at any time, but indoor dropboxes are often only accessible during work hours! - Becky

darcmosch2 karma

This question is about veracity. Now, I do think that one of the biggest problems facing many issues is that there must be a "for" and "against" argument when 1 side or the other may be disingenuous or basing their arguments on falsehoods and the like. Do you think you would ever get to a point where you would mark certain viewpoints as being unfounded or unverified?

Do you think being balanced is the same as non-partisan?

BallotReady7 karma

This is a question I think about myself. A candidate can say one thing while campaigning and then fight for the opposite while in office. While we don't see a future at BallotReady where we provide judgement on a whether a candidate's statement is unfounded or unverified, we're always thinking about other information sources we can provide with consistency. Voting records, law suits, and campaign finance information are potential sources we are considering to provide in the future to help voters make their own determinations. - David

darcmosch2 karma

Appreciate the answer. I believe when I looked on your site, you did give a list of bills that they voted for or against, which was nice. You could then look through it and see if they did keep their campaign promises, but at the same time, since politics is messy, I'm curious if having a blurb from the candidate explaining their vote might be necessary as well because it may have been because of an additional rider that was for a more important campaign issue, or that they changed their mind on something.

Do you think you would ever give in-depth coverage like that? With the disappearance of local papers and boots on the ground for down-ticket elections, do you think you could possibly start offering an option like that? Give less exposed politicians a chance to explain their positions besides just their blurbs on websites?

BallotReady5 karma

This is a very interesting idea. Appreciate the discussion!

You touched on one of the reasons we don't currently display full voting records of candidates. The reason why an elected official voted one way is just as important as their vote itself.

To scale up these effort across the country for candidates all the way down the ballot would be a massive undertaking, but we love challenges! We know there are other organizations out there thinking about the same idea, and we'll certainly consider partnerships in the future. -David

bunsNT2 karma

Do you get the sense that more folks are going to vote split ticket than usual this election?

BallotReady3 karma

Thanks so much for that unique question! It is a possibility that we haven't explored as our goal is not to predict how people will vote.

However, we do get the sense that there is an overall lack of emphasis on downballot races this year and a quarter of people typically skip voting for downballot races altogether- that's the gap for which we hope to fill! -KG

CDC_1 karma

If I voted early in person in North Carolina, is there a way to see if/when my vote has been counted?

BallotReady2 karma

Hi there! I’m not sure if there is a way to see this, but something that might be helpful is this Voter Tools page from the NC State Board of Elections, which includes their Voter Search tool. It seems clear that they do have a tracking system for mail-in/absentee ballots but I’m not seeing an equivalent feature for votes that were cast in-person. - Louisa

metalupyour1 karma

Hello, I live in New York. I accidentally marked a check mark through the bubble line of a local question about a policy in my county on the back of my absentee ballot, does this make my entire ballot void? I filled in the bubble correctly on who I am voting for.

I can’t seem to find an answer online about this outside of “don’t make mistakes.” I haven’t turned the absentee ballot in as I am thinking about voting in person now since this mistake could void the whole ballot. Thanks in advance fore your answer

BallotReady2 karma

Each state has a different process for dealing with this situation. If many states, you can fill out and sign an affidavit (usually found on the official state website) stating that you made a mistake and still wish for your ballot to be counted. In others, you may have to call your county elections office to ask about their process for dealing with this. In the worst case scenario, you can bring your ballot with you to an in-person location, turn it in, and case a vote in-person. - Becky

NeatNuts1 karma

[deleted]

BallotReady1 karma

Our voter guide has sourced a few arguments in favor of and opposed to Prop 208 to help inform your decision. Those arguments are linked back to the advocacy group websites on either side, where you can read even more details about their arguments. We hope you find that informative! - David

LucidMM0 karma

What election is this post referring to?

BallotReady4 karma

We are providing full coverage for the 2020 General Election in the United States. Election Day is Nov 3rd. - KG

Tink0408-1 karma

What are the dos and don't of attire for assuring unhasseled in person voting?

BallotReady2 karma

While rules about what attire is allowed within a polling place vary, anything explicitly associated with a campaign or candidate should be avoided. Remember that this includes non-clothing items like hats, buttons, pins, and flyers! If you would like to be particularly cautious, I would recommend solid colors or patterns that have no text on them. - Louisa