Political scientist Jim Mayfield has an idea that he hopes will revolutionize elections in America and increase voter participation at the same time.
I VOTE Informed Voting Options Through Education is a high-tech, computer-generated system that matches voter issue preferences with candidates' stands on those issues.Mayfield, a University of Utah professor and pollster, is chairman of Voters Caucus, a non-partisan, non-profit voter education organization that operates I VOTE.
"This kind of technology is the wave of the future," Mayfield told the Salt Lake Rotary Club on Tuesday.
I VOTE is now operating on a national level voters can purchase the service for the presidential candidates. But Mayfield said I VOTE is really designed for and will be of greatest use in local elections, where voters aren't familiar with school board, county commission and city council candidates.
I VOTE works this way in the U.S. presidential race:
Mayfield and his associates at Voters Caucus have contacted the candidates and gotten, not without some arm-twisting, their stands on 50 "critical issues" of the day. Those stands are in the I VOTE computers.
A voter pays a fee to I VOTE, gets a questionnaire, fills out his issue preferences and mails it back. The computer matches the voter's answers with those of the candidates and, by return mail, the voter learns which candidates agree or disagree with him on the various issues. Thus, the voter knows for whom to vote.
For $6 the voter gets matched with the four top candidates who are closest to his thinking, plus their stands on five major issues. For $11 the voter gets the candidate matchups plus how the candidates feel about the voter's top 10 issues. For $22 the voter gets the matchups plus how the candidates feel on all 50 issues.
Mayfield said research shows less than 6 percent of the registered voters in various primaries or caucuses decided that Jimmy Carter would be the Democratic presidential nominee in 1976. In 1984, just 50 percent of the qualified voters cast ballots in the U.S. presidential election.
Mayfield believes much voter apathy is caused by uneducated voters, people who, for whatever reasons, don't know the issues and don't know the candidates. Thus, they don't vote. Tell the voters who agrees or disagrees with them most, and voters will be more interested in elections, he figures.
I VOTE could eventually be tied in to citizens' home computers, Mayfield said.
"With a telephone call, you could find out how your candidates stand on different issues. You could find out how your congressmen voted on important matters. The information revolution is coming to politics. I VOTE is just the Model T of what is coming," Mayfield said.