Name your district.
Even if you're informed enough to do it normally, it might well have changed since the last election in all the Texas redistricting brouhaha. Know your Senate leader? Your Representative? What about who's incumbent and who is looking to give them a run for their money?
Well fear not.
Just in time for this election year, Texas craft beer advocacy group Open the Taps has put together a comprehensive online local voting guide that aggregates all your relevant candidates' information in one place. And with 150 Texas House districts, 31 Senate districts and every office up for reelection, it's a handy tool to tinker with.
Open the Taps Leslie Sprague spent close to 200 hours building the guide in the hopes of getting Texas reps to take a stand on consumer beer issues.
Voters can enter their address to find their district, current Senate and House Representatives (unless the district is new) and who, if anyone, is looking to take their seat. Contact information for each candidate is listed from mailing addresses right down to social networks. If a candidate is particularly hard to get ahold of or doesn't have an updated website, that's indicated.
Open the Taps Leslie Sprague spent close to 200 hours building the guide in the hopes of getting Texas reps to take a stand on consumer beer issues. She sent a simple one-page survey on the issues in early February to every candidate she could find an address for (snail- or email), and spent countless hours combing the web for contact information — which for some candidates, she says, can be surprisingly hard to find.
Candidates who returned the survey — 40 or 50 so far of about 380 candidates, she says — have their responses available online as PDFs. If a candidate answered some questions but not others, or took the opportunity to write notes in the margins but skipped something, those responses are still downloadable for their constituents.
The survey first provides a few basic beer stats, like:
- Although small craft breweries make 5 percent of the beer consumed in America, they provide 50 percent of the brewing-related jobs.
- Wineries in Texas can currently sell wine on-site and ship direct to consumers, but breweries cannot.
- Breweries are required to submit beer for state tasting after it's already been Federally approved, while liquor and wine manufacturers do not have to jump through this hoop.
It then asks candidates to indicate "yes" or "no" to whether they support three issues: Do you support allowing Texas breweries to sell beer direct to consumers? Do you support allowing Texas brewpubs to work with distributors to make their beer available at bars and retailers? and Do you support "changing outdated, Prohibition-era laws that restrict the economic growth of the Texas craft beer industry?"
Sprague hopes that the free resource will get constituents who care more involved. "We need people to reach out to their reps and tell them to fill out the survey and take a stance on the issues," she says.
She also hopes that the site's usability and relevance to the average voter puts the issues in front of a new audience, not to mention in front of new incoming candidates. At least 40 percent of the incoming class will be freshmen or sophomore legislators, many of whom are likely new to craft beer issues affecting Texas consumers.
In addition to providing candidate contact information, Sprague even composed sample Tweets and Facebook posts for voters to reach out to their reps on social channels, which users can do organically from within the Open the Taps site.
"It's to our benefit that it's also a Presidential election year and more people will be out voting," Sprague says. To make the most of your time in the booth, click here to visit the OTT voting guide.