Politics

Berkeleyside launches one-stop, nonpartisan voting guide

With ten measures, contested seats in the mayoral, City Council, school, and rent stabilization board races, Berkeley voters have a lot to keep track for the Nov. 6 election.

Berkeleyside is here to make things easier for you.

We have teamed up with MAPLight, a Berkeley nonprofit dedicated to revealing money’s influence on politics, to produce a nonpartisan voting guide for the ten measures on the ballot.

Called Voter’s Edge Berkeley, we see it like one stop shopping: come to the Voter’s Edge Berkeley website to understand the measures (described in plain English); see how they might impact your pocketbook; see who is throwing money at them; and see who is endorsing or opposing the measure. As a bonus, there is a handy collection of links to various news stories, editorials, and organizational endorsements.

Based on software developed by MAPLight and used successfully to trace campaign spending in the 2010 and 2012 elections, the website is dynamic and updated frequently. So, for example, while there is not much information yet on who is putting money behind the most visible issue on the ballot – Measure S, which would prohibit sitting on sidewalks in commercial districts – it will be added and graphed right after Oct. 5, the deadline for the next reporting period. It will be updated again after Oct. 25.


MAPLight is also teaming up with NBC Bay Area to produce similar guides for San Francisco and San Jose. The organization, which was co-founded by Daniel Newman in 2005, works to expose the influence of money in politics. (The MAP in MAPLight stands for Money and Politics. The group’s motto is Transparency. Accountability. Reform. They call themselves the money-stalkers.)

The group has a cadre of researchers in its upstairs office on Shattuck Avenue digitizing public records and campaign contributions and cross-referencing them with Congressional voting records.

A snapshot of Berkeleyside’s new non-partisan voting guide

While it once took reporters days to figure out if a Congressman or Senator might have voted one way because he or she got a contribution from an interested industry, it now only takes minutes. The nation’s top news organizations, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CBS, ABC News, and many more, have used MAPLight’s data to highlight the connections between donations and influence. In 2011, the news media produced 1,567 stories from MAPLight’s data, and they reached 55 million people. Pretty impressive for an organization with a $1 million operating budget.

MAPLight’s public database contains more than 14 million records, including campaign finance data, legislative voting data, and interest group support and opposition data.

Visit Berkeleyside’s Voters Edge Berkeley for complete coverage and tracking of Berkeley’s 10 ballot measures. You will also find the Voters’ Edge Berkeley button in the central column of our homepage and on every story we publish on the local elections.


Visit Berkeleyside’s Election 2012 section to see all our coverage in the run-up to November 6.