I can't tell you how many times I've been on my way out to vote in local elections, and the people around me would ask, "How do you even know who to vote for?" It's a pervasive and persistent problem. Voter turnout in Portsmouth -- a city of moderate size, a well-educated populace, and two daily newspapers -- is typically about 25%.
Incumbents, of course, have some measure of name recognition from their prior service; however, they are known entities only to meetings-goers and religious local newspaper readers. As for the challengers, unless you know someone personally who happens to be running for city council or the school board, they are virtual unknowns. To get your name out there is a marketing problem, of course, but local elections are small-scale endeavors, with candidate's entire marketing and publicity budgets being spent on... Yard signs.
Ah yes, the yard sign, that ubiquitous harbinger of local elections. You see them on every street corner, clustered together, popping up, multiplying like mushrooms overnight. It's not been proven that the candidate with the most signs around town wins, but that's the way the candidates play it, and they aren't taking any chances!
Now, here in Portsmouth, our elections are coming up on Tuesday, November 6. I have a pretty good idea of who I'm supporting, but for the other 90% of Portsmouth residents who are understandably clueless, there is now an answer to the eternal question: "Who ARE all these people?"
Enter PortsmouthVoter.org. It won't tell you who to vote for -- that you've still got to figure out for yourself -- but you'll be able to see all the candidates together in one place, BEFORE you enter the voting booth. Your civic responsibility has never been so easy!