Jeff Manders’ Voter Guide Project offers essential information for any voter in the community

Jeff+Manders%27+Voter+Guide+Project+offers+essential+information+for+any+voter+in+the+community

With voter turnout in the 18 to 25-year-old age range rising faster than any other age group, FX advisor and Civics teacher Jeff Manders noted this trend and was curious as to whether voter turnout would rise or fall in this upcoming election. 

Transforming that curiosity into a full-fledged class project—the Voter Guide Project—for his freshman Civics classes, the students were tasked with researching each race on the ballot and compiling the unbiased information onto a website. 

The purpose of this website? To inform voters—first-time voters, younger voters in the rising age bracket, or even voters who simply do not have the time to research the races—for the upcoming election. 

“We spent a whole day talking about what it means [to be] civically engaged,” Manders said. “How can we improve that while helping citizens in our community be more educated voters? That’s the kind of driving question for the project.”

Assigning groups of 3-5 students a specific race on the ballot to intensively research the candidates and their political party, and, on a broader scale, which interest groups are supporting/funding them and how they’re using the media to their advantage, the information that the students gathered are easily accessible on the website for anyone to view. 

With the sole purpose of simply educating the voting population, the website gives an unbiased glimpse into each race on the ballot to ensure everyone—especially first-time voters—feels confident and knowledgeable come election day.

“We want to have an informed voter population,” Manders said. “[We want to] provide [voters] with as much information [as possible]; folks who might have just registered to vote here in Forest Hills [may be] 18, and it’s their first chance to vote. They feel passionate about it for one reason or the other. So let’s give them as much information [as we can].”

In the past couple of weeks, students who are not even eligible to vote have dedicated hours of research to ensure that those who can—and should—are as educated as they can be. 

Freshman Parker Ludwig acknowledges the busy lives of voters and feels that relaying the important information to those who possibly don’t have time to research is paramount during election season. 

“I do feel very important for getting this information across to first-time voters,” Parker said, “because everyone is very busy with school and sports and probably [has] very little time to research candidates for elections. When we do all the leg-work for them, they have the knowledge of every candidate’s beliefs which they can match up with theirs to know who to vote for.”

As someone who is not eligible to vote, therefore not part of the population the website aims to reach out to, Parker couldn’t help but feel a bit disconnected during the project. 

But, despite some of those feelings of detachment, he recognizes the importance of an informed population and is excited to use what he has learned the past few weeks in four years.

“It does take away a lot of the project for me because I can’t vote,” Parker admitted. “I feel [that] I can’t relate to any of the voters [who] need this information. [But], I have learned that even the smallest of elections still matter in the community and will now be more responsible in the future for my civic duty of voting.”

Taking note of a bit of that inevitable disconnect that Parker explained, Manders has kept the conversation in the classroom current, and it somehow always relates back to their project in some way. 

“I think the majority of [students] are more interested when I try to bring up current event stuff that’s going on,” Manders said. “Any time there’s something big, which there’s something big almost every day right now, I try to put it up on the screen and just explain, you know, here’s what’s happening right now. I’m slowly trying to get them to be more involved.”

Freshman Lucy Yoder, who admitted that she is “kind of interested” in the project and all it encompasses, noticed that, because of her inability to vote, she was able to look at all the information with a very wide, unbiased lens. 

We don’t have to actually make a decision,” Lucy said, “so we’re more open to different candidates and can find more information without being biased, I guess. We’re really involved in it, and it helps the community [to] know what the candidates are really about, not just from the news.”

Freshman Bella Grounin, who, throughout the project, enjoyed learning about some of the lesser-known candidates, also noted how helpful the website is for anyone willing to click on it. 

I feel like we are definitely doing a good deed for the people that are unsure or not as educated about the candidates,” Bella said. “It’s going to help a lot. This [will] be an easy way to educate them.”

Involvement in the project was non-negotiable—whether it was researching the candidates, presenting the information to the class, or inputting the information on the actual website, every single student had a role in the success of the website in some way. 

Having such a real-world project that is not only applicable to the students’ lives down the line but also impacts people right now for the upcoming election was another aspect of the project that Manders considered. 

Always striving for real-world connections and applications, the Voter Guide Project was just one example of the goal that Manders always has in mind. 

“It’s very engaged,” Manders said. “Other people are going to see this, so it makes it more real, which is what I [intended]. I wanted them to create something real, something tangible.” 

And they did. 

The website, which the students poured weeks’ worth of time, research, and energy into is now live for any voter to view. Click here to be redirected to the site, or click on the link in the sidebar. 

“This project [offers] knowledge about candidates that are running in every race this year by giving [voters] all the information we can find on them,” Parker said. “From what interest groups support them, to what party they are, this website has you covered.”