Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, Aviva Rosman AB ’10, MPP ’16 shared her thoughts as COO of BallotReady, an online resource that aggregates information from candidates’ websites and social media accounts, as well as press clippings, endorsements, and public information from the election authorities for comprehensive, nonpartisan information about the candidates and referendums on the ballot. 

Learn Rosman’s hopes for this important election, her thoughts on the millennial vote and what’s next for BallotReady. 

How did BallotReady get started?

Aviva Rosman

As a special education teacher, I’d decided to run for local school council and began the process of calling my network encouraging their vote and support. I’d called my friend and now co-founder, Alex Niemczewski – and while she’d considered herself an informed voter -- she didn’t realize an election was going on at the time. It got us both thinking that people know who they want to vote for president, but guess or leave the ballot blank when it comes to local offices.

While at Harris in 2015, we submitted our idea to help voters make smarter and more informed decisions to the Social New Venture Challenge. And we won! We launched just ahead of the 2015 Chicago mayoral race by making paper voter guides driving 400 people to the site. By 2016 we were live in 12 states, covered more than 15,000 candidates and saw more than one million visitors hit the site. And now, just ahead of the midterm election, we’re live in every state, covering more than 84,000 candidates. 

Beyond aggregating information, we’re also helping voters with the logistics of voting. We’ve created a tool called Make a Plan. It allows users to commit to a day and time to vote, allows them to see a map of their polling place and users can set up text reminders. We believe that if people actually create and commit to a plan they are more inclined to do it. 

Next year we will continue to work on covering every race. And then 2020 will of course be a major moment for BallotReady. 

How do you think the role of technology has, or can change the way people vote? 

It’s all about access to information. In this day and age it’s so much easier to find information about candidates through websites and social platforms. Technology plays such an important role in making elections accessible not only informing voters on specific candidates, but also the logistics - think location, method and timing - of actually voting. 

How do you ensure the information you provide to users is unbiased?

BallotReady is a tool that aggregates information. We never summarize or analyze the content we share with our users. In addition, we have a very systematized process for gathering information on each candidate. The process is very clear and transparent with our researchers ensuring each candidate is researched the same way. 

Despite being one of the largest generations, less than half of millennials voted in the 2016 election. As we look ahead to midterms, do you feel as though there’s been a shift in millennial thinking since then? Do you expect the numbers to be different this year? 

About 40 percent of BallotReady users are millennials, who historically don’t vote in local elections. We’ve seen huge interest from millennials in this election.  There are several groups and initiatives in play encouraging them to head to the polls. 

Looking at early voter numbers and vote-by-mail options, there is already a higher turnout.  I do think we’re seeing a more engaged generation eager to participate in democracy, perhaps more than ever before. 

How did Harris help to prepare you for your role as the founder of BallotReady? 

It was at Harris that I decided to pursue this idea, and I had the resources and support to do so. I also believe that Harris’ huge focus on data has helped me focus on how best to measure our effectiveness and generate insights from the data we’re seeing. and Then we can understand what we can to prove out the hypothesis that more information will lead to optimal outcomes for communities in terms of who represents voters. 

To learn more about BallotReady, click HERE.