In November, I voted in Illinois for the first time, having lived in California for much of the past decade. As I pored over the list of candidates on the sample ballot, all I could think was: "Who the hell are all these people?" I barely knew most of these offices even existed.
San Francisco residents wouldn't have this problem. The city and state send out (and host online) voter guides, giving each candidate a chance to make a statement, including positions on key issues. It's not comprehensive, but at least you can learn something about the people you're voting for.
Chicago has nothing like this. My political junkie friends counseled me to trust the newspapers' endorsements. But I didn't want to make such important decisions based on two lines of commentary in an unsigned editorial. I tried researching myself, but local political coverage is thin on many issues, and half the candidates don't maintain websites. It seems like the entire system is set up to make it hard to find non-partisan information, and you end up voting for the machine candidate with the most money, the guy the paper (or your union, or TV ads) tells you to choose.
Now that Rahm Emanuel's given up his Congressional seat, those of us living in his district have barely a month to figure out who among two dozen candidates is the best person to replace him. I am dreading going through the research process so much, I've decided to do something to help myself and every other Chicago voter.
I've created Chicago Elections, a central source for all the information you'd ever want about candidates running for elective office in Chicago. You'll find information on the politicians and the issues from their websites and campaign staff; links to government documents and real-time news stories from across the political spectrum (including HuffPost); and lists of endorsements and analysis from other pols, activist organizations, and your neighbors.
Chicago Elections is a wiki, not a normal website. For non-techies, that means you can read, edit, rewrite, and even add information and create new pages (just like with Wikipedia). In fact, the site will only succeed if people like you participate by contributing information. It's as easy as sending an email to a friend: Log on, post a link, or add a bit of information. Every contribution helps.
Chicago Elections is not a moneymaking venture for me, or for PBwiki, which is currently hosting it. It is not affiliated with the City of Chicago, the Chicago Board of Elections, or any other government entity. Its sole purpose is to provide a way for voters to stay informed without having to scour the Internet for information. Together, we can build a guide to help people make smart decisions in the upcoming Special Election, and for all future election days.
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