MyElectionDecision.org Encourages Political Engagement - Lawrence University Creates Tool to Educate Voters

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MyElectionDecision.org is a Web site created by Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, to educate college students and the general public about the views of presidential candidates on a variety of issues. By considering the candidates' own statements on the issues, without regard to their appearance, personality, fundraising ability, or the news media's interpretation or bias, MyElectionDecision.org strips away many of the factors that have soured people on the political process.

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With a historic presidential election on the horizon, Lawrence University has launched a new Web site, designed to help voters, especially college students, try to find which candidate's positions best match their own on a variety of important national issues. Called MyElectionDecision.org, the Web site is a project of Lawrence faculty and staff, in a partnership with researchers from the University of California-Irvine.

Lawrence University President Jill Beck said the creation of the Web site was driven by statistics indicating the lack of political participation among many college students. "This is by no means restricted to Lawrence," Beck said. "It's a concern I share with faculty members and other college and university presidents."

The Web site uses a series of interactive questionnaires to assess the users' ratings on critical issues including Iraq, health care, immigration, the environment, and the economy. Visitors to the site rate which issues are most important to them, take a blind test without knowing which candidate said what, evaluate which issue statements they support, and then, with computer assistance weighing the preferences, find out which candidate most closely supports their views.

By considering the candidates' own statements on the issues, without regard to their appearance, personality, fundraising ability, or the news media's interpretation or bias, MyElectionDecision.org strips away many of the factors that have soured people on the political process.

The site is updated as candidates make new statements or change positions. The views of four Republicans (Giuliani, McCain, Romney, and Thompson) and four Democrats (Clinton, Edwards, Obama, and Richardson) are currently reflected on the site. After the primaries, the site will shift its focus to the two surviving candidates.

The 2008 presidential election will be the first without a presidential or vice-presidential incumbent candidate since 1928, and political analysts have said it has the potential to become one of the most historic elections in U.S. history.

"One of the founding traditions of a liberal arts college is the education and creation of good citizens," Beck said. "When statistics show that only a third of college-educated Americans follow public affairs regularly, and less than two-thirds vote in both national and local elections, it's clear we can do more in that regard. It's my hope that Lawrence University and MyElectionDecision.org will contribute to political awareness, inspire debate on the issues, and create greater voter turnout at a time when it has never been more important."

About Lawrence University
Charting an uncommon course in higher education for more than 160 years, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It ranks among the nation's best small, private colleges, and was selected for inclusion in the book "Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College." The development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience, where classes or creative and research projects tailored to students' educational interests and life objectives are prevalent. Lawrence draws its 1,400 students from 43 states and 50 countries. Its picturesque, residential campus is nestled on the banks of the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin. For more information about Lawrence University visit http://www.lawrence.edu.

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Sheree Rogers

Sheree Rogers