With the help of a public radio station in Boston, KQED, the excellent NPR station in the San Francisco Bay Area, has put up this useful Web page containing an online “quiz” that helps voters compare candidates’ positions in the upcoming California recall-the-governor election. WBUR originally did this for last year’s election for governor in Massachusetts, and offered the code to the California affiliate.
The site engages voters in a particularly clever way. The identities of the candidates are not tied to their positions on the issues as you take the quiz. You match your views with candidates’ views, and only at the end do you find out which candidate is closest to your positions. As one of the developers told me in an e-mail today, it’s like a “blind candidate taste test.”
The site has two serious flaws, however. First, it assumes that Gov. Gray Davis will be thrown out. That’s not necessarily true, and it’s definitely unfair.
Second, it includes only five of the more than 130 candidates on the second part of the ballot. This is understandable, given the manual labor involved, but it’s another editorial judgement that will bother anyone who might want to move past the usual suspects.
On balance, though, this is a clever way to use the Internet, and a helpful one for voters.