Let the sunshine in with transparentdemocracy.org

June 2, 2009

U.S. citizens need as much information as they can get to make the best decisions about their political system and the companies they invest in, believes Kim Cranston. The son of late California Democratic Senator Alan Cranston is using the Internet to do that.

Americans are more likely to face tough issues head on, such as climate change, if they have more information, Cranston says. For that reason, he, Jeff Manning, and some Stanford students have started a website to put an easy voting guide on the Web. The idea behind the website, transparentdemocracy.org, is to give people guideposts.

“A user can see how people they trust¬† are voting and why — Republican or Democrat, Chamber of Commerce, League of Women Voters, anything that is in there,” Cranston said. People can add their comments, too.

The site, still in the testing stage, lists 153 ballot propositions from 35 states in the last election, everything from gay rights to tax proposals.

Cranston and the students also list shareholder proposals for companies such as ExxonMobil, with the views of outside groups. Those issues cover everything from moving company headquarters to executive compensation.

“The shareholders are the owners, so this helps shareholders make informed decisions about corporate policy,” he said.

Cranston believes the website may improve turnout by encouraging people to send e-mails to their friends.

He cites work by Donald Green, a political scientist at Yale who specializes in voter turnout. A small pilot study by Green showed that voter turnout increased 5 to 10 percent when one friend e-mailed another with recommendations.  Green found that was a departure from mass e-mailings, which had little effect.

(Photo: Reuters)


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If the site aims to restrict itself to pure objectivity and statement of facts, it will be of benefit. If it is yet another outlet to foist the views of the site owners on everyone, it’s a waste of time. We have enough of those.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

Uhhh, how is the question of whether moving headquarters is good or bad for the company affected by knowledge of how other people – total strangers, or worse, hackers – are claimed to be intending to vote? Either I believe moving is a good thing, or else I don’t.This site’s creation is certainly evidence of how cynically we all view the democratic process these days, but as far as I can see, its founders are only digging the hole that bit deeper (and presumably selling loads of advertising space along the way).

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

As the primary technologist and developer on this project, I share your concerns over just ‘how cynically we all view the democratic process these days’. It’s for that very reason we built this site and organized as an open system and organized as a 501c3 non-profit.We have a no-bias policy with regard to favoring any party or individual over another. Our goal is to keep the system completely open, allowing anyone to join, and anyone to comment and take a position. Is this model or site perfect? Not even close.But this ‘openness’, by itself, doesn’t guarantee a site with an unbiased source of information. But over time, with enough interest and participation, any bias should become noise, allowing you to find a position that’s aligned with your current one – and to discover a range of views by others that are not.

Posted by Jeff Manning | Report as abusive