Ballot Ready Takes Top Prize at 5th National Penn Policy Challenge

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March 25, 2016

Philadelphia, PA – Championing a website to help voters navigate the dizzying array of local candidates on the ballot each election, University of Chicago Team "BallotReady" took home top prize at the 7th National Penn Public Policy Competition last weekend. Team members Alex Niemczewski and Aviva Rosman walked away with a $10,000 check to further develop their website – and significant national coverage from GOVERNING Magazine.

BallotReady's solution is simple: a website that aggregates data on down-ticket races – including people and issues – to help voters make informed decisions when casting votes for those offices. While national and higher-level federal government candidates get plenty of attention, local candidates – those with arguably a more significant influence on constituents' day-to-day lives – are often entirely unknown to voters.

BallotReady's website is designed to help people who want to be informed, but feel overwhelmed by the number of offices and available candidates from which to choose. But that's not all the site does. As Niemczewski told GOVERNING Magazine, ""We also see opportunity for people to become more engaged in local politics in between elections."

The team has their eye on Millennials in particular.

Held at the National Constitution Center, the two-day competition saw ten teams from across the country compete before a panel of distinguished public policy professionals. Penn's Team "Individual Dignity Project," which won the Penn Public Policy Competition last month, put forth a strong showing in the national competition's first day, but ultimately did not progress beyond the first round.

By the second day, the field had been winnowed down to BallotReady and three others: University of Minnesota (a proposal to enhance rural water security), Georgetown University (a violence prevention program for Latino youths in DC), and NYU (assistance for LGBTQ homeless youth).

Though the competition was fierce, BallotReady's data-heavy presentation carried the day. That bodes well for the team as they turn their website into a company in order to scale their model for what promises to be a busy 2016.

Sitting on the national competition's panel were:

  • William H. Leighty, President, Decide Smart, Winner of the 2007 Governing Public Official of the Year honor for serving as Chief of Staff to former Governor Mark Warner, VA
  • Nat Gandhi, Winner of the 2007 Governing Public Official of the Year honor for serving as the former CFO, Washington, D.C.
  • Janet Creighton, Commissioner, Stark County, Ohio. Former Deputy Assistant to President George W. Bush and Mayor of Canton, Ohio.
  • Phyllis Kahn, Representative, Minnesota State Legislature, Winner of the 2009 GOVERNING Public Official of the Year honor for serving in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
  • Mark Funkhouser, Publisher, GOVERNING magazine, Winner of the 2003 GOVERNING Public Official of the Year honor for serving as City Auditor of Kansas City, Missouri.

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