Let's start with the basics: voter turnout is at an all-time low. 2014 saw the lowest voter turnout in 72 years with less than 50% of the eligible voting age population even bothering to participate in 43 states. The problem is even worse in local elections which are often held in odd-numbered years and fall below the radar for most voters.
And even for the dwindling number of voters who do turn out in these elections, many simply don't cast votes in critical races for school boards and judges - in part because they don't know where to turn to for information on these contests and have a low level of knowledge about the candidates.
For example, Philadelphia saw 16% voter turnout in its 2011 mayoral primary with voters casting just 21% of their eligible votes for judges, an effective turnout rate of 3%. Los Angeles saw a dismal 10% turnout in the 2015 elections, with just 6% of voters casting ballots for a competitive LA Unified School District race.
And although there are many reasons for the continuing decline in civic participation, government has done little to make voting any easier. Even in a hub of innovation like San Francisco, some of the basic functions of democracy seem stuck in the past century.
Take for instance that dense, annoying sample ballot and voting guide we all receive each election. What if we could make it actually useful? What if instead of being a thick, confusing mess, it was digital, data-driven, and easy to use?
That's why we launched our new interactive voting guide for San Francisco which provides a seamless, intuitive way to vote in this election.
The data for this new free, browser-based ballot guide is based on Crowdpac's unique algorithm which maps politicians - from presidential hopefuls to state legislators to local candidates - on a liberal/conservative scale based on what they say, how they vote, and most importantly, who gives them money.
San Francisco is now the second city in the nation to have local campaign finance records integrated with Crowdpac’s database of every state and federal political donation made since 1980. Many more are planned for 2016.
Still not sure who to vote for? We've also created this fun quiz that provides customized recommendations for each contest based on users' positions on key issues.
By using the power of data and technology, we have the power to help take the friction out of voting, donating and running for office. It's about time democracy caught up with the times.
Editor's note: To learn more about Crowdpac, visit the organization's website.