Here’s a great opportunity for everyone who reads this to get involved and make a contribution (without spending any money).
Back in 2004, I worked on a voting guide based on drug policy issues and managed to complete guides for 19 states, but I ran out of time to collect the information for the rest. Yet even those 19 state guides seemed to reach a lot of people, based on the email I got (and the large number of google-related visits).
This year, I’ve put together a voting guide framework using a wiki (a website structure that allows any registered user to make changes and add information, similar to Wikipedia).
The easy address to get there is http://voting.drugwarrant.com
How it works
Register for a free account (you don’t have to use your real name, but you do have to use an actual email address of some kind in order to complete your registration — to prevent spammers). Then, when you’re logged in, simply go to the state page you want to change, click on “edit,” type your information, click on “save.” That’s all there is to it!
There are special ways of coding things in a wiki that are different from other web applications (for things like bold or italic, etc.), and that information is available there as well. But if you don’t like dealing with that kind of thing, don’t worry about it. Just type. Someone else will come along and “pretty it up.”
Afraid of messing things up? Don’t be. Each page keeps past versions, so even if you mistakenly delete the whole thing, we can fix it.
What to enter?
Eventually, we’d love to have as much drug-policy-related information as possible on every race for Governor, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House, along with relevant state-wide initiatives. Depending on the interest within a state, we could continue on to State Senate and State House races — that’s really up to those adding information.
In some cases, you may be particularly interested in a single race (maybe because you’re working on it) — and that may be all that you enter. Or you may want to take on a state and start working on getting information entered. Or take a state that somone else started and expand on it.
There are lots of good sources of information that you can use. Vote-Smart.org provides detailed information on the candidates in each race, starting with who’s running (just getting that info entered is a huge help). Over the next few months, they will also be encouraging candidates to fill out position surveys on a variety of topics. The Senate and House candidate survey includes the following statements and asks if the candidate supports the statement:
- Reduce prison sentences for those who commit non-violent crimes.
- Support mandatory jail sentences for selling illegal drugs.
- Expand federally sponsored drug education and drug treatment programs.
- Decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
- Allow doctors to recommend marijuana to their patients for medicinal purposes.
- Increase border security to stop the flow of illegal drugs into the United States.
- Eliminate federal funding for programs associated with the “war on drugs.”
- Increase financial support to Colombia to combat “the war on drugs.”
Those surveys should be helpful once they’re available.
Additionally, at the voting guide, we have some other sources of information, such as the Drug Policy Alliance 2005 Voter Guide (which lists how House members voted on specific bills or amendments). And of course, if you’re ambitious, you can use old-fashioned sleuthing — everything from reading their web-sites to calling their office — to get more information.
Finally, if even typing the information in the wiki is confusing, or you’d rather not register, feel free to email information to: email@example.com
We’ve got a little over 4 months to put together some useful information for voters. After all, when it comes to the drug war, we already know that the voters are ahead of the politicians. Let’s give them the information they need to put the politicians on notice.