The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

With the campaign season kicked into full gear, those students looking for clear answers from Pennsylvania’s politicians before Election Day now have an opportunity to ask their questions directly to the candidates., a website designed to promote voter-candidate engagement, is offering voters the opportunity to submit questions to candidates in the gubernatorial, senatorial and selected congressional races across 11 states, including Pennsylvania.

Founded in 2007, the website submitted over 300 questions to candidates during the 2008 election and received at least one response from five different presidential candidates — including then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

By logging in through a Google account, prospective voters can submit questions in writing or in a YouTube video. Those that receive the most favorable response from other site users are submitted to the candidates.

The website also invites the public to judge whether the candidate gives a forthright response.

In the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race — between Democrat Dan Onorato, currently the chief executive of Allegheny County, and Republican Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania’s attorney general — the website will post more than 10 questions, meaning users’ queries have a greater chance of being selected.

Experiencing a recent surge in participation, the website has extended the deadline for submissions in Pennsylvania to 11:59 p.m. Thursday, according to 10Questions Project Manager Daniel Teweles.

Responses to selected questions are expected by mid-October.

Explaining that the website appeals to younger demographics typically left out of the political process, Teweles contends the site offers issue activists the opportunity to “directly influence the political debate.”

But Peter Levine, Director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement — a Tufts University-based research group that studies youth political involvement — expressed skepticism about the rating process used to select questions.

By voting to determine the questions, Levine explained, there is “not as much deliberation about what the questions should be.” With this type of format, he added, fringe groups can also more easily mobilize and dominate the discussion.

Responding to these concerns, the website explains that it guards against ballot stuffing, but ultimately “the larger the number of overall participants, the more representative the top questions.”

Levine did highlight the benefits of voter-crafted questions, noting that journalists tend to ask about the so-called “horse race” rather than substance.

College senior Jared Fries, executive co-director of Penn Leads the Vote — a nonpartisan voter registration group — expressed the importance of being an active and informed voter.

“It is extremely important to vote, but showing up on Election Day is not enough,” Fries wrote in an e-mail.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.