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Government Students Develop Online Voters Guide for Elections

BROWNSVILLE, TEXASNOVEMBER 1, 2013Students taking an American and Texas Government class this fall learned about ballot propositions by developing an online voters’ guide.
Dr. Mark Kaswan, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government at The University of Texas at Brownsville, said the goal of the project was for his students to be better informed about issues.
Kaswan divided his class of more than 100 students into working groups that did background research and developed arguments for and against issues. The students used some information already compiled by the Texas Legislative Council and the League of Women Voters of Texas.Dr. Mark Kaswan, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government at The University of Texas at Brownsville

“In some ways I think they have learned from this that it’s not easy,” said Kaswan. “The arguments are complicated. There may be good arguments in favor and against. You need to consider those and think about the information and come up with a good opinion. You can’t do that if you don’t have the basic information.”
Armando Garcia, 20, a freshman government major from Brownsville and a graduate of Pace High School, was assigned to look for background information and develop counter arguments to state Proposition 2 which calls for eliminating the State Medical Education Board and State Medical Education Fund.
“I learned that some of the propositions seem they are submitted by friends of legislators,” said Garcia. “Also some of the propositions do seem they want to help people but they influence people with money. It does seem to have an impact on which ones pass.”
Marie Romano, 16, a senior at the university’s Mathematics and Science Academy from Brownsville, created the guide’s web design. Though she is not yet old enough to vote, Romano said the information she learned can help her when she enters the voting booth in the future.
“It is important for voters to know the contents of the ballot in advance because people shouldn’t be voting if they don’t understand what is going on,” said Romano.
The university’s Center for Civic Engagement used the voting guide for Kids Voting USA Brownsville. Center Director Estella Martinez said more than 37,000 Brownsville students used the guide and casted mock votes in the past several days.
Kaswan said he came up with the idea for the voters’ guide as he thought of his experiences living throughout the United States.
“In other states like California and Nevada, 30 days prior to an election every registered voter receives a package from the state that gives them all the information they need in order to get informed about the election,” said Kaswan. “Texas is the only state I have lived in where voters don’t get the information. I think we see the results in low turnout rates.”
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5.


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