09/13/2010 10:29 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

This Is Not a Drill. Neither Is Our Democratic Process

During the next 10 days, you have the ability to ask candidates running in 46 of the nation's most competitive midterm races your questions. You can also vote on them, and ask your friends, colleagues, and networks too as well. On September 21st, the top 10 questions in each race will be submitted to the candidates, who will respond via YouTube. This is part of an experiment called 10Questions, a project of the Personal Democracy Forum (with generous support from the James S. and John L. Knight Foundation). We're doing this because we've watched together, in awe and consternation, as another election cycle has ramped up featuring the same recycled soundbites, tired catchphrases, and wily underhanded smears. We've thirsted together for debates featuring more thought and less posturing (though Jan Brewer certainly did her fair share of thinking in the AZ Gubernatorial debate last week). Mostly though, we, us, Americans, voters, constituents, are all looking for the same thing in the final weeks of the 2010 Midterm Elections: candidates that get it, get... us. Sometimes it is most prudent to accept things the way things are. Now is not one of those times. We have the ability to directly influence the debate; in fact, to define it. Rather than rail against the system, its constraints, and how it is stacked in favor of those who game the system instead of serving their constituents, we have a simple proposition for you: instead of pining for a panacea, invest your passion and/or displeasure (all motivating emotions are welcome) in creating a conversation with your candidates via 10Questions. You can think of it as stop gap, an experiment, a proposal, a desperate measure to ensure that constituent voices are not drowned out by special interests and slick ads. While Beltway politics aren't going away anytime soon, our contention is that beltway politics should not trump community issues and constituent concerns. Together we can demonstrate that a critical mass of constituents in each race are not just concerned, but invested, watching and waiting, and thus, candidates will have no choice but to pay attention. The idea that the internet's promise of democratization can help to be realized via 10Questions is less of an idea and more of a reality each day. Across the country we've seen community groups, school groups, church groups, you name the group, come together to ask and vote on questions dealing with issues of primary concern to them. While many of the questions being submitted are the bellwether issues of this election cycle (ie: immigration in Arizona and special interests and healthcare nationwide), others are unique to their geography, and realistically, would not otherwise be on candidates' radar screens otherwise. I'm referring to questions like the one about bicycle safety in Florida and Sunday alcohol sales in Georgia. 10Questions is not the answer to our divisive system. We know that. But 10Questions is providing a tangible and accessible forum to voters irrespective of campaign contributions and lung capacity, and we're confident that with your involvement we can fundamentally change the game. By providing candidates with the white unicorn of connectivity to their constituents: truly crowd sourced questions, by rewarding candidates who rise above soundbites to substance, and by working with traditional and new media outlets large and small, we're helping to carry the flag of possibility ever closer to reality. Won't you join us?

Go to, select your state, pick a race, and ask the candidates anything. Mobilize your community to vote on your question and others. On September 21st the top 10 questions in each race will be submitted to the candidates. In the final weeks before Election Day, you'll then have the opportunity to vote on whether or not the candidates answered your questions.