Betsy Butler and Richard Bloom are fighting for the newly-drawn 50th Assembly District seat. (Photo by Brandon Wise)

CITYWIDE — Voters who need help picking candidates for the upcoming election season will be able to utilize a new matching tool that compares candidate’s positions to their own.

Santa Monica basedProCon.org, a sponsor of the Santa Monica Daily Press’ Squirm Night, is developing an interactive survey that shows voters which candidate shares their values. The surveys are the organization’s flagship product and the Santa Monica election will be the first time the system has been applied to a local election following successful implementation in the 2008 and 2012 presidential races.

ProCon’s President/Managing Editor Kamy Akhavan said the first iteration of the voter/candidate matching system emerged in 2008. ProCon.org used a mix of independent research and direct questions to assemble a digital voter guide with the idea that voters needed a streamlined way to evaluate candidates.

“This was the first effort at condensing a mountain of information in to a single page that (voters) could print and take to the ballot box, but then we wanted to make it interactive so it’s not just reading this stuff. Let’s ask readers the exact same questions we asked the candidates and show them as they take the quiz in real time, how they are matching up.”

The system spread through word of mouth and by the end of the election, ProCon was the third highest ranked result for Internet searches about the Presidential race. Akhavan said the organization built on that success for 2012, streamlining the technology and incorporating more integration with social media.

“For the 2012 election we got even more media coverage,” he said. “The New York Times called ProCon.orgthe most comprehensive website on the candidates and the issues. We had over 600,000 people take the quiz and for us that was a sign we are making an impact on the national election.”

Akhavan said he thought the system was as relevant to local races as it is to national. The system helps voters find a candidate that shares their values without having to wade through pages of statements and research.

“This is the first time we’ve used this same technology and process for a local election,” he said. “It seems like an excellent fit because we all need that clarity for anytime we need to vote. Santa Monica has a high voter turnout rate and those voters clearly want to participate in democracy, they want to be informed voters, and they are more likely to turn to a site like ProCon.org.”

Candidates for City Council, Santa Monica College Board and the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District Board were sent surveys last week. Surveys were due by Sept. 30 and ProCon is currently entering the data into their system. Akhavan said the matching survey would be available to the public early next week and the Santa Monica Daily Press will publish the direct link to the survey once it is ready to go live.

Akhavan said ProCon’s goal isn’t to advocate for a specific candidate but to provide voters with information.

“We’re not trying to skew anyone to any particular candidate,” he said. “We just want to show where the candidates stand on issues that are relevant to them and present that information in a way that is clear.”

Squirm Night will be held on Oct. 13, from 6 – 10 p.m. at the Broad Stage. The event will feature forums for each of the three local races.

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