Widgets Magazine

Ballot Blast Initiative spreads awareness, informs voters before election

In the days leading up to the 2016 presidential and state elections, Stanford students have come together to form the Ballot Blast Initiative, a program seeking to inform students about the 17 propositions on the California ballot this cycle. Currently in its first year of operation, Ballot Blast is being run by Stanford in Government (SIG) along with a number of independent student political activists and volunteers with interests in policy and peer education.

The project is the brainchild of Josh Lappen ’19, whose political experience working on campaigns and research inspired his interest in the cause. For Lappen, the complex nature of the propositions motivated him to present the information to voters in a more easily digestible way.

“Looking at this year’s lineup of 17 complicated, convoluted and sometimes interconnected ballot measures, it seemed to me that there was a big need for nuanced and nonpartisan voter education on these propositions,” Lappen said. “They touch a lot of different and very important aspects of citizens’ lives and the way in which California government functions.”

Lappen’s interest in peer education regarding the amendments drove him to enlist SIG’s help to spearhead the campaign. In addition to a webpage dedicated to ballot education and details on the propositions, SIG program manager Jacob Kaplan-Lipkin ’19 has also helped to organize on-campus events to raise awareness.

Kaplan-Lipkin said, “We really want to engage more of the community in these critical debates and policy discussions, so our ultimate goal is making sure that more people at Stanford are talking about policy in a meaningful way.”

In addition to the website, SIG and its affiliates hosted an open house for proposition education on Tuesday, at the Haas Center for Public Service. Students of all years and members of the community at large attended the event, which consisted of small group discussion regarding each of the ballot measures. SIG members, student volunteers and members of other organizations gave presentations on specific ballot measures, providing information to voters.

Among the attendees was first-time voter Lily Randhawa ’20, who managed to gain more context and information about the ballot measures as a first-time voter.

Randhawa said she especially appreciated the organizers’ efforts to keep the discussion nonpartisan.

“It was really helpful because they presented both sides and used a lot of facts but also showed the possibilities for concern, [such as] unintended consequences of passing a certain measure or not,” Randhawa said.

Lappen, who also spoke at the event, agreed that the presenters kept nonpartisanship in mind when speaking to participants. He added that he was encouraged by the response to the publicity drive, which he said led to an increase in student awareness and interest in the propositions.

As Election Day draws nearer, students can interact with Ballot Blast resources online and by contacting SIG directly. According to Kaplan-Lipkin, the best way for students to find out more about the initiative and the ballot is to check out the resources on the SIG website.

“To me, every person that goes to the website and spends five minutes looking into at least one proposition, that’s a victory in terms of citizen engagement,” Kaplan-Lipkin said. “But most importantly, vote!”

 

Contact Adithi Iyer at adithii ‘at’ stanford.edu.