Dear Reader,

When it comes to elections, democracy is a do-it-yourself project. We voters eyeball the task at hand, do some research (or none at all!), imagine the possible outcomes, and then glide into the voting booth.

Some of our projects fail moments after completion, and some last a long time.

What will you build this year?

The Missourian has the ultimate DIY-er's tool. If it was a screwdriver, it would be a Craftsman. If it was a 12-in-1 multi-purpose gadget, it would be the Leatherman.

This fall’s online Voters Guide is amazing. I know I sound like an As-Seen-On-TV advertiser, but it’s really, really cool. Here’s why:

You go to the site, plug in your address, and you get every item that you’ll vote on. (You can also see all the races, if you choose.) Go through the guide, make your picks, and then download your results to your phone or print them out.

Is technology great, or what?

Each race has a job description at the top. Each constitutional amendment has the ballot language and the “fair ballot language” that attempts to say just what it all means.

Then you get a side-by-side comparison of the candidates — drawn from the candidates themselves —and the amendments.

The Boone County Southern District commissioner’s race was the first page to appear after I punched in my address. That’s Democrat Brianna Lennon vs. Republican Fred Parry.

In the left column, I read Lennon’s bio with links to her sites, followed by her answers to questions written by public life editor Scott Swafford. How would she deal with the growing pressures on infrastructure? What about site formerly known as the Boone County Fairgrounds? How would she address social and economic disparities between whites and blacks?

In the right column, Parry’s name was next to a bunch of blanks. For whatever reason, he chose not to participate. That’s certainly his right. Caleb Rowden, running for 19th District senator, made the same choice.

I was rewarded, though, on my next voting decision, for 46th District state representative. Democrat Martha Stevens and Republican Don Waterman both participated. Here there were statements to which the candidates made a scaled choice (strongly disagree to strongly agree), and then followed up with explanations.

The candidates gave clear, cogent responses. They couldn’t be much more apart in philosophy or planned policies. Excellent.

The Voters Guide took some real effort on the part of candidates and Missourian staffers. It’s certainly not everything an expert DIY-er would want. That’s why there are articles from the frequent debates in town and candidate profiles.

Public life editor Swafford ran through the various components of the Voters Guide on Tuesday at the monthly meeting of the Missourian Readers Board. There was a unanimous thumbs up, with some very good suggestions for improvements. I told the group that the company providing the templates and software wasn’t cheap. The members saw it as a good investment in our community.

If there are similar sentiments, and if I can find the money, we’ll use it again for other elections.


About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

On Thursday night, I described the guide to a friend at the pub we frequent. He lamented the uninformed voters who base decisions on a single ideology (i.e. straight ticket voting) or what their drinking buddies say.

I’m not so critical.

People make their decisions in all kinds of ways and for all kinds of reasons. The whole thing is messy and inefficient.

And still, things seem to work out. The American experiment continues.

Tom Warhover is the executive editor of the Missourian. Contact him by e-mail at warhovert@missouri.edu or by phone at (573) 882-5734.

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