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Step One: Figure Out Who's on the Ballot

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, October 29 2010

Amazing as it can be to believe, it can often be extraordinarily difficult for people to figure out, come election day, who's actual going to appear on their ballot. It's a tough way to run a democracy. Into that breach steps a new website called Imagine Election, a one-stop shop for that sort of ballot info. From a release:

Imagine Election was founded by Summer Nemeth, 29, who tried to make sense of the political junk mail she received before the 2006 midterm election and thought, "there must be a better way." She realized voters can't Google a name if they don't know it, and that's why political information has stayed stuck in the dark ages of junk mail and lawn signs instead of moving online. She envisioned an information-rich, location-based website that would collect opinions and help people make informed decisions on Election Day - taking a model like Amazon or Yelp, and applying it to the political sphere.

User reviews are in their infancy on the site, but Imagine Election does make it trivially easy to find the slate of folks you can vote for next week. Type into your address, and up pops a tally of the names on the ballot. The site currently has listings for more than 12,000 candidates in all fifty states. (To be fair, Project Vote Smart does maintain candidate lists as part of what they do, though the site can be tough to get around. eVoter does something similar, but only in seven jurisdictions -- California, DC, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.)

How has Nemeth, a Harvard MBA with a computer science degree from the University of Michigan who does real estate finance work in New York City, been able to to succeed where others have failed, or not bother to try? Hard work -- and maternal dedication. "We've collected the data directly from state election officials and websites," writes Nemeth in an email. "My mom has been working on the data side of it full-time basically all year."

Give it a spin.