In any given election year, voters often need help getting to know the candidates and the propositions and amendments populating their ballots.
That proved especially true for Election Day 2020, when Colorado voters faced a bulky ballot full of choices.
To smooth the way for easier decision-making, more than 170 University of Denver students from varied disciplines and majors collaborated with Colorado Public Radio to help with the research for the organization’s extensive online voter’s guide.
Every major election year, Colorado Public Radio compiles a comprehensive, nonpartisan guide breaking down where the candidates stand on major issues and analyzing the various questions put to voters. The candidate section allows voters to make side-by-side comparisons and even invites voters to click on individual stances to learn more.
DU students enlisted their research skills to determine where many local candidates stand on the issues. Graduate student T. Michael Boddie oversaw the research and compiled all the findings into one massive spreadsheet for CPR.
“I thought it was a really cool opportunity for journalism students,” Boddie says. “Political journalism is important, and it’s a lesson in making things digestible for an audience. I learned a lot about people who are trying to be leaders in this state.”
Lynn Schofield Clark, professor and chair of the media, film and journalism studies department, helped organize the partnership with DU and CPR. She emphasized the importance of evidence-based journalism and the chance for students who are Denver newcomers to learn more about the important issues in their new home.
“This project gave students an opportunity to apply their research and critical-thinking skills to the work of collaborating on the CPR voter’s guide,” Clark said. “I wanted our students to be a part of this because at the University of Denver, we emphasize community-engaged learning, and this was a terrific project that involved helping our community while also giving students a chance to learn about that community, about what it needs, and about how elected officials can address those needs.”
Clark hopes this project helps students see the value in being informed, as well as the value of participating in elections. Like Clark, Boddie considers the collaboration with CPR a beneficial, hands-on experience for undergraduates.
“I hope the students understand a little bit more about the connection media has to the function of democracy,” Boddie says. “It’s your job to help people understand politicians as a journalist. I hope this also made students understand the value of the vote.”