Desperate America is always looking to bring more attention to the people and organizations whose focus is on moving society forward and making sure every voice is heard and protected. It was suggested by a regular visitor to the site that there should be a weekly spotlight of these people and organizations. Always trying to be the pulse of the people, Desperate America instantly seized on the opportunity to help bring attention to great causes. Today is the start of something called “Monday’s Best” on the blog. The idea is that every Monday, an organization or an individual will be featured on the blog. There will be a brief history of the mission and also a glimpse into the problem that is being combated. There will also be links to the honoree’s site and links to more information about the topics covered.
Today we will start our “Monday’s Best” series with Project Vote Smart. In 1988, an organization was formed with the intent of providing information on political candidates. The organization hoped to have easily accessible information available to the voting public. An initial volunteer staff of 200 people conducted a phone hot-line for state elections in North Carolina and Nebraska in 1990. The organization provided information on the biography, campaign finances, performance evaluations, issue positions, and voting records of each candidate. For the two months leading up to the elections, volunteers operated a phone bank of eight lines around the clock. The initial two days after the project was announced provided more than 2,000 callers. The success of the experiment led to three important self-imposed regulations for Project Vote Smart: a decision to remain independent by not taking donations from organizations that lobby in support or against a candidate, mandate that any new board member be countered by someone of a differing political view, maintain a staff primarily composed of volunteers with a small salary offered to a few workers.
The project expanded to the colleges and universities in 1992 by opening an office with 200 interns at Oregon State University. However, even with a total staff of 450, the OSU office was unable to cope with the over 200,000 calls to the hot-line. Seeing this problem, the organization opened a second office at Northeastern University in Boston for the 1994 elections. The growing popularity of the organization led to a need for construction of a Project Vote Smart campus. In 1999 the organization built a facility that would allow for the housing of dozens of student intern and volunteers. The facility, named Great Divide Ranch, allowed for a larger web capacity, and more office and housing space.
Currently the organization has information on all state and federal elected officials. Nominated judges and city/county candidates have also been added. Programs have been started that go into community libraries and make the information even more visible to the public. The web site now features listings of nearly every federal, state, and local race in the country. In a democracy, voter education and voter participation are paramount. Project Vote Smart has done a superb job of getting people informed and involved in the political process. Hopefully the organization will continue to be a source of independent reviews of our candidates and elected officials. As citizens of this great country, we must all do our part to ensure a prosperous future.
Get Informed and Get Involved!