SVCF grantee MapLight shines a light on money in politics to help voters

I Voted

Maria Ramos lives in Bakersfield, California, a town with a considerable Hispanic population. However, she has found a shortage of easily accessible Spanish-language resources related to voting. So when someone recommended she visit, she was thrilled to discover a Spanish version of the website, accessible from her phone, providing useful, nonbiased election information.

A service of MapLight and the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, Voter’s Edge provides California residents with easy access to an online list of candidates and ballot measures that will appear on their ballots, along with meaningful, nonpartisan information to help voters evaluate candidates and propositions. A $100,000 grant from SVCF has helped ensure Voter’s Edge remains a nonbiased resource.

“Because of supporters like SVCF, we are working only for the voters and the public,” said MapLight President and Co-Founder Daniel G. Newman. “It’s not funded by candidates or advertisers who might try to skew the information. It’s a civic education service that’s designed to be useful to everyone.”

Voting AppVoter’s Edge is one of several MapLight initiatives aimed at shining a light on the influence of money on politics and helping voters make informed decisions. Founded in 2005, the nonprofit operates under the principles that everyone deserves an equal voice, lawmakers should represent the public interest rather than wealthy special interests, and access to money should not determine who gets elected or how political decisions are made.

The nonprofit’s work has earned several prestigious awards, including the 2015 Board of Directors’ Distinguished Service to Journalism Award from the Society of Professional Journalists Northern California, and the 2007 United Nations World Summit Award for Government and Civic Engagement.

MapLight’s team produces tools to help journalists, researchers and the public identify campaign contributions and expenditures, in California and nationally. It also publishes original research and investigations highlighting money in politics and its influence on elections. The organization also supports reforms to political processes through its research and free consulting services to activists who are seeking to improve their local elections.

While all of these projects serve MapLight’s mission, Voter’s Edge has the most direct, hands-on connection to average citizens seeking to make a difference in their communities by voting.

In 2016, one in eight voters in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties relied on Voter’s Edge for election information. In 2018, MapLight expects to serve more than 100,000 users in those counties and well over 1 million statewide. In a survey of users, 74 percent said they would vote for more offices as a direct result of using Voter’s Edge, and 55 percent said they were more likely to vote thanks to Voter’s Edge.

“This is a project that uses technology to help people be more effective citizens and to make sure their country does a better job of representing them,” Newman said. “So many resources go into using technology for commercial purposes. It’s great that SVCF is supporting MapLight’s project and others that use technology for civic good.”

To learn more about MapLight, visit Photos courtesy of the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund.

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