Loyola University Chicago

Masters of Urban Affairs and Public Policy


Alumni Spotlight

Sebastian Ellefson

Sebastian Ellefson, Principal Researcher at BallotReady, answered several questions about what BallotReady does and how it can help you know who the candidates are across many elections.

BallotReady's mission is to make democracy work the way it should by informing votes on their entire ballot. We aggregate content from candidates' websites, social media, press, endorsers, and boards of elections for comprehensive nonpartisan information about the candidates and referendums on your ballot. We gather early voting, polling place, and GIS data to link each individual use to their unique ballot and polling place.

Voter fatigue is very real, especially here in Illinois where we can have 50+ positions on a single voters ballot! Simple gathering all the candidates in a single place is a necessary first step, but we go beyond that to try to make the process of choosing each candidate to be as painless as possible. One principle that makes BallotReady such a useful tool, and distinguishes us from other voter guides, is our emphasis on UX (user experience). It's not enough to just copy and paste the text from a candidates' website; most users do not want to wade through multiple paragraphs of text. Through countless hours of user testing we've created an easy to navigate division of the different types of candidate information. Is the only thing you care about the candidate's prior experience? Great, you can easily see that in a resume format. Do you just want to know their stance on the environment? You can quickly isolate this as well. For district court judges (a major blind-spot for most Illinois voters) we have aggregated all bar association ratings into one single simple graphic. Our users love it! For users who want more information, we provide links to all our source material.

We cover elections in all 50 states, including candidates and ballot measures, down to the local level.