The results of local elections have a huge impact on our lives. But across Miami, local election turnout has historically been meager. In the last Miami Beach mayoral race, in 2013, just 25 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot. In Miami, that number fell to 11 percent. And across
Among the reasons for the historically low turnout, experts believe voters in local elections simply don’t know what or who to vote for. Whereas the candidates in a presidential race are scrutinized for over a year in advance, differences between Mayoral or commission candidates can seem blurry. And the ballot items may be written in language that is hard to grasp, especially if it involves changing regulations or laws.
So earlier this year, marketing professor and business consultant
“Our theory is that it’s really a lack of clear information that makes voting rates so low,” Robaina says. “We think we can help solve the gap and help people learn more about the issues.”
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VoterAid, a desktop and smartphone app that is available for Miami Beach’s mayoral race this November 3, aggregates potential voters’ information by asking them basic questions on key issues — from immigration to marijuana legislation. It runs responses through a matching algorithm and ranks how closely their views align with each of the candidates’ positions. At the end of the questionnaire, the user receives a personalized endorsement of the candidate that seems to best match their interests.
Robaina points out that he and coders Tony Vu and Chris Knowles don't insert their own bias in any part of the app. They simply input information based on extensive research on the issues, and let the system do the work.
The three men plan to expand the app to
“The truth is, we think people want to vote,” Robaina says. “And with so few people voting, a couple hundred extra votes can really change the outcome completely.”