This article originally appeared in the Detroit News.

Voting is our civic duty. It is our responsibility to make our voices heard and participate in the democratic process. Voting empowers us to bring about a brighter future for our children, our communities and our country. It is also one of the few times in our society we are all equal, regardless of income, gender, race or occupation.

Yet research shows that too often Michigan voters feel they do not have enough information to make educated decisions about the federal, state or local candidates seeking to represent us. Also, confusion about the very process of voting itself can be an intimidating roadblock to greater participation.

Case in point is last August’s primary election: Fewer than 18 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in this important election. Put another way, nearly 82 percent chose not to vote. We can and must do better.

To that end, the League of Women Voters is launching Vote411.org, an online voter guide that provides unbiased, non-partisan information on the views of federal, state and local candidates, as well as information on ballot issues.

But there’s more: Vote411.org also provides users with Michigan-specific information including where and how to vote, information for elderly, absentee and student voters, information for first-time voters and even where to find polling locations and upcoming community debates and forums.

Vote411.org users can also learn how to watch debates with a critical eye, comparing candidates’ positions side-by-side. They can even print out a sample ballot with their choices marked, to take to the polls on Election Day.

Since 1920, the League of Women Voters has worked to make our democracy work and has developed resources and tools to encourage all citizens to vote and to make the process as convenient as possible. In Michigan, there are 22 Leagues in communities across the state, working to educate voters through Vote411.org and candidate debates. There are state and local Leagues in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong.

The League is strictly nonpartisan and neither supports nor opposes candidates for office at any level of government, which is why we are often called upon to moderate debates, as we are doing in this year’s race for the Michigan Supreme Court.

To make sound, informed decisions, we encourage all citizens to visit Vote411.org to find key election information in one convenient place. Be sure to do your research and don’t forget to vote in November for the candidates you feel will best represent you and your family.

Sue Smith is president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan.

URL: 
http://lwv.org/content/vote411-tool-inform-assist-michigan-voters