People often don’t vote because they don’t know where candidates stand and are confused about how to find out. Widespread political cynicism, disinformation, and spin don’t help. But nonpartisan candidate guides provide a concise and credible way to compare candidates’ stands and make clear why voting matters.

Beginning in 2012, our team of veteran journalists has been producing these guides, first to help college students vote at 600 campuses, through Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP), and then for a broad array of civic organizations, from American Democracy Project and Black Voters Matter to Do Something, Nonprofit Vote, Vote.org and When We All Vote.

Now an independent project hosted by longtime partner Youth Service America, guides.vote will produce 2022 guides for all the most contested US Senate and gubernatorial races, along with important Secretary of State and State Supreme Court races. We’ll also produce a guide to Congressional races, and translate many into Spanish.

“Patiently and deliberately you have built a unique and valuable ally of democracy, engaging this generation of young people. I continue to admire and salute you, in no small part because you were ahead of your time.”

—Bill Moyers


Abina Billups

ABINA BILLUPS, Partnership Director

Abina, a native of Selma, AL, grew up at the feet of some of Alabama’s Civil and Voting Rights foot soldiers and giants, where she developed a passion for fighting against social injustice. She has been a key organizer in the annual events that commemorate Bloody Sunday, the Selma to Montgomery March, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, through which she had the privilege to work and march with people like Congressman John Lewis, President Barack Obama, and President George W. Bush. She is the co-Founder of Salute Selma, where she executive produced the documentary Sheroes of Selma, which she placed on the Viacom networks and where she shared the stories of her life growing up with women such as Amelia Boynton Robinson, Jean Jackson, Annie Cooper, Annie Pearl Avery, Marie Foster, and other unsung sheroes; additionally, she executive produced We Remember and Long Ride to Selma, concerts that featured President Obama, Lewis, and other grassroots foot soldiers. She’s also on the board of T.O.P.S, which successfully fought to get legislation passed to allow formerly incarcerated individuals the ability to restore their Alabama voting rights, and co-founded BWCC, which encourages women to become entrepreneurs and to run for public office. She holds a B.A. in English and Philosophy from Spelman College, an MPA from Troy University, and a JD from Vermont Law School. Abina helped develop questions for the 2020 guides and got them distributed by numerous national organizations and networks.

Ellen Finkelstein

ELLEN FINKELSTEIN, Senior Consultant

Ellen holds a B.A. in English from Wesleyan University. She worked at Encyclopaedia Britannica for 19 years, honing her fact-checking skills and sense of nuances as a copy editor for a variety of yearbooks, project coordinator for several books, and project manager for the online Britannica. She worked on all phases of print publications—from concept and development of articles, soliciting authors, review and editing, design, page proofs, and finished product. She also directed a summer program that helped high-school students develop leadership, competency and confidence, to interpret the world and solve problems, and to advocate for themselves and create positive change in their communities. She’s been working on the guides since 2016.

John Boylan

JOHN BOYLAN, Project Director

John Boylan is a Seattle-based writer and producer. In 2016 he created and produced 9e2, a nine-day festival of art, science, and technology that included work by more than 100 artists, performers, engineers, scientists, and technologists. For more than 20 years, he has hosted a roundtable conversation series about art, politics, and science, featuring major artists, scientists, poets, writers, musicians, architects, actors, activists, and impresarios. Boylan worked in web publishing at Microsoft for 15 years, and has also been an editor, journalist, art critic, and researcher. He holds an MA in communications from the University of Washington and two BA degrees, in history and English literature, from Penn State.  Boylan’s been researching and editing the guides since 2018.

Leslie Helm

LESLIE HELM, Editorial Director

Leslie Helm has been a reporter for more than three decades. In the early 80s, he reported from India, Korea and Japan for Business Week, where he was also a New England reporter and Boston bureau chief. In the 90s, he was the Tokyo and later Seattle reporter for the Los Angeles Times. More recently, he was editor of Washington CEO Magazine and Seattle Business Magazine, a monthly publication that won national awards during his decade of leadership. Leslie joined the guides team in 2018 as a researcher and writer and in 2020 assigned and edited them for national senate and governor races.  He is the author of Yokohama Yankee: My Family’s Five Generations as Outsiders in Japan. Helm holds an MA degree from Columbia University’s graduate school of journalism and a BA in political science and MA in Asian studies from University of California Berkeley.

Uzma Sabir

UZMA SABIR, Outreach Coordinator

Uzma Sabir is a Washington, D.C. native who also manages Outreach for Shoulder to Shoulder, a national coalition-based campaign of religious denominations, faith-based organizations and communities working to end religious discrimination and violence.  Previously, Uzma worked on a variety of high-level event planning, political and marketing efforts domestically and internationally.  She is also an experienced educator.  In each of her roles, Uzma has drawn on her passion for mobilizing America’s diverse communities in service of the greater public good.  Inspired by the work of other bridge-builders in the face of new and evolving challenges, she looks forward to continuing her work at the intersection of public service and community engagement. Uzma has a BA in Integrative Studies with a specialization in Marketing and Advertising from George Mason University.  In her free time she enjoys the great outdoors as well as creating art. She helped get major interfaith networks to promote the 2020 guides.

Plus our terrific researcher/writers
They’ve written for places like Time, AP, Seattle Times, San Jose Mercury, and Toronto Globe & Mail. All our 2020 researcher/writers are repeating.

Advisory Board

Lashon Amado

Lashon Amado, Director of Opportunity Youth United

Lashon Amado is the Director of Opportunity Youth United (OYU), a national grassroots movement of opportunity youth and their adult allies seeking to alleviate poverty in their community through civic engagement. After being “pushed out” of high school, Lashon received a second-chance to get back on track by attending his local YouthBuild program in Brockton, MA. After completing the program, Lashon went on to receive his master’s degree from Northeastern University. He is now an emerging social entrepreneur, with a vision to empower young people across the globe to be change agents in their community. Lashon is also the Founder and CEO of an international project, Mas Um Chance (One More Chance), an emerging social enterprise seeking to empower opportunity youth and individuals who have been deported in Cabo Verde (CV), an archipelago on the west coast of Africa. In the program, young people are prepared for pathways into education, employment, and entrepreneurship to be become the next generation of leaders and business owners across the islands. After volunteering many years providing ESL instruction at a local nonprofit in CV, he decided he wanted to do more and that led him to launch the project. Opportunity Youth has been distributing the guides since 2018.

Courtney Breese

Courtney Breese, Executive Director, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation

Courtney Breese is Executive Director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD), a network of innovators who bring people together across divides to discuss, decide, and take action together effectively on today’s toughest issues. She is a trainer, mediator, and facilitator with extensive experience working on state and municipal engagement efforts. She started facilitating dialogues as an undergraduate at Franklin Pierce University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in social work and Counseling.

Courtney Breese is Executive Director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD), a network of innovators who bring people together across divides to discuss, decide, and take action together effectively on today’s toughest issues. She is a trainer, mediator, and facilitator with extensive experience working on state and municipal engagement efforts. She started facilitating dialogues as an undergraduate at Franklin Pierce University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in social work and Counseling.

Steve Culbertson

Steve Culbertson, President & CEO Youth Service America, Guides.Vote fiscal sponsor

Steve Culbertson is President and CEO of YSA (Youth Service America), an international nonprofit organization committed to increasing the opportunities for young people to change the world. YSA works with thousands of organizations in 135 countries on six continents. For two years in a row, the Nonprofit Times Steve to its list of “The 50 most powerful and influential leaders” in the sector. Passionate about social innovation and youth engagement, Steve has launched a variety of YSA programs, including Service Vote and Semester of Service. Steve has also been a Trustee for America’s Promise; a member of the Advisory Committee for the Ad Council; an Advisory Board Member of Break Away; and has served on the Board of Directors of Camp Fire. He has a degree in English and French from Hamilton College and lives in Washington, DC.

Leslie Garvin

Leslie Garvin, Executive Director, North Carolina Campus Compact

Leslie Garvin is the Executive Director of North Carolina Campus Compact, a network of 37 colleges and universities committed to educating students for civic and social responsibility, which she’s worked for since 2005.  Garvin also leads the NC Collegiate Hunger Challenge and Elections and Democracy work. She has trained hundreds of faculty, staff, students, and community partners across the state and country in the deliberative dialogue method. She is a Collaborative Discussion Coach and a trained moderator and member of Braver Angels. She also facilitates workshops on Theater of the Oppressed. She serves on the Board of Directors of the National Issues Forum and co-chairs the State Summits & Networks Subcommittee of the Students Learn Students Vote Coalition. Garvin has co-authored chapters in Critical Intersections In Contemporary Curriculum & Pedagogy and Practical Wisdom for Conducting Research on Service Learning: Pursuing Quality and Purpose, and edited the Primer on Benefits and Value of Civic and Community Engagement in Higher Education. Garvin holds a Master of Social Work with a concentration in social and economic development and a specialization in management, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in political science and African-American Studies, both from Washington University in St. Louis.  She is a former  White-Riley-Peterson Policy Fellow  and a proud AmeriCorps alum.

Maydee Martinez

Maydee Martinez—Youth Voter Engagement Activist

Maydee Martinez is a graduate of the Honors College at Miami Dade College and Georgetown University in Washington DC, where she studied Sociology and Government. During her time at MDC, Maydee served as a Vote Everywhere Ambassador for The Andrew Goodman Foundation. In 2014, Maydee founded Democracy YOUnited, an educational program that focuses on voter registration, education, and engagement. She also helped found Engage Miami in 2015, a non-profit organization with the goal of changing the culture of politics in her hometown of Miami. Maydee is a 2016 Newman Civic Fellow and recipient of The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s 2016 Hidden Hero award for her outstanding achievement as a Vote Everywhere Ambassador, and served as a Puffin Democracy Fellow from 2018 to 2020. She has also worked for several political campaigns in South Florida – most recently as the Political Director for now Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, of Miami Dade County. Maydee also curated Vote The Future’s programming, which is a paid summer internship program centered on youth civic education which most recently employed over 100 high school students. Maydee believes that all politics is local, and that young people must harness their voices to make impactful change.

Sam Reed

Sam Reed, former Secretary of State of Washington State

Sam Reed was elected as Washington’s Secretary of State in 2000. He served until 2013. He’s is a former president of the National Association of Secretaries of State and the Republican Association of Secretaries of State and was a Governing Magazine Public Official of the Year. Reed has also been a county auditor, directed Washington’s Constitutional Reform Commission, directed the Governor’s Urban Affairs Council, and represented the US as an election observer for the Republic of Uganda. He also co-founded Common Cause of Washington, helped found the Mainstream Republicans of Washington, and has a BA in Social Studies and MA in Political Science from Washington State University.

Verdis Robinson

Verdis Robinson—Kettering Foundation Associate, former National Director for Democracy Commitment

Verdis L Robinson was the National Director for The Democracy Commitment, the Director for Community College Engagement at Campus Compact, and is currently an Associate of the Kettering Foundation specializing in deliberative democracy in community colleges and interfaith institutions. Prior to leading community college civic engagement nationally, he was a tenured Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies at Monroe Community College in Rochester for ten years. Verdis is also the Lenora Montgomery Scholar of Excellence at Meadville Lombard Theological School where he is a candidate for a Master of Divinity and for the Unitarian Universalist ministry after being a minister in the African American Holiness-Pentecostal tradition. Verdis holds degrees in History, African-American Studies, and Music Performance from SUNY College at Brockport, SUNY University at Buffalo, and Boston University.

Mary Lee Vance, Ph.D.

Mary Lee Vance, Ph.D. Director of Services for Students with Disabilities and interim Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity (Title IX and DHR) at Sacramento State. 

Mary Lee Vance, Ph.D. currently is the Director of Services for Students with Disabilities and interim Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity (Title IX and DHR) at Sacramento State. She has directed disability services, academic advising, career services, minority recruitment and retention, new student orientation and other student services at UC Berkeley, Michigan State University, George Mason University, Orange Coast College, Purdue University-Calumet, UW Superior and Iowa State University. She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses and is the editor or co-editor of three books: “Beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act: Proactively Planning for Accessible Post-Secondary Educational Offerings”, “Now and into the Future”, published by Student Affairs Administrator’s in Higher Education (NASPA); “Advising Students with Disabilities: Developing Universal Success”, 2nd edition, published by (Global Community for Academic Advising (NACADA); and “DISABLED Faculty and Staff in a Disabling Society: Multiple Perspectives in Higher Education”, published by  the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD). Furthermore, Dr. Vance serves as a reviewer for the refereed NACADA journal and AHEAD JPED. She has published in journals, texts, and other publications, has an extensive presentation history and is frequently invited to present on universal curriculum; serving wounded warriors; intersectionality of racism and ableism, international adoption, and the ADA. Among other awards, she was recognized by both AHEAD and CAPED, with their respective Professional Recognition awards and in 2020 was the recipient of the AHEAD first Duraese Hall Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion award.

Esther Wojcicki

Esther Wojcicki: Media Literacy Expert and former California Teacher of the Year  

Esther Wojcicki is an internationally known educator, and founder of the Media Arts program at Palo Alto High School, where she built a journalism program including 600 students, five additional journalism teachers, and nine award-winning journalism publications. She is also the 2002 California Teacher of the Year; a 2009 MacArthur Foundation Research Fellow; former Chair of Creative Commons, Chair of PBS Learning Matters, and on the Board of the Freedom Forum, the Newseum and the Alliance for Excellent Education. She holds three honorary doctorates and is the author of Moonshots in Education (2014) and best-selling How to Raise Successful People (May, 2019). Her primary focus is to help parents, teachers and managers be more effective at home, in the classroom, and in the corporate world. She was one of the leaders in setting up the Google Teacher Academy, and has been a consultant for the U.S Department of Education, Hewlett Foundation, Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching, Google, Silicon Valley Education Foundation and Time Magazine Education. Esther has a BA and Master’s of Journalism from UC Berkeley and MA’s from San Jose State, UC Berkeley and the Sorbonne.