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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Vote Smart leaving

After three years at the UA, Project Vote Smart has decided to leave Tucson, the city in which it was founded.

The project — a non-partisan research organization that focuses on candidate accountability — is leaving after budget cuts forced the university administration to make changes to Vote Smart’s contract, namely charging rent for the project’s on-campus headquarters.

“”Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out”” said Vote Smart President Richard Kimball. “”The university has run into a lot of difficulties lately, and, apparently, they weren’t interested in the experiences and services we offered to students and the community, so we had to go somewhere that would.””

Vote Smart will continue operations at the UA until December, when it will officially move operations to its new satellite offices at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Southern California.

According to Kimball, Project Vote Smart tried repeatedly to contact university administrators over an eight-month period but was unable to get in touch with them.

“”We are looking at growing and expanding our services now, which requires a larger commitment from the university we choose to partner with,”” Kimball said. “”UA has other priorities they were focusing on and was just no longer a good fit and we had a lot of schools anxious to have us.””

Johnny Cruz, UA assistant vice president of communications, cited the issue of rent for Vote Smart’s on-campus headquarters as the main reason for the split.

“”We’ve experienced unprecedented reductions in state funding so, like any institution, we had to make some tough decisions,”” Cruz said. “”Vote Smart is a great organization and we were happy to have them at the UA and we wish them luck and success in the future.””

Vote Smart will be expanding its services and splitting them between its two new satellite locations. The USC campus will focus on testing a candidate’s platform against his voting record, and the UT campus will work to provide citizens with a detailed synopsis of local candidates’ positions on issues.

“”I can’t think of a non-partisan organization I respect more than this one,”” said Erich Saphir, the coordinator of Vote Smart internships for Pima Community College. “”This is a tremendous loss for Tucson and the university, even though it is understandable under the given circumstances.””

Project Vote Smart, which is headquartered in Montana, was first incorporated in 1988 but did not begin offering its full array of services until 2007, the same year it opened the satellite office on UA’s campus.

“”I pushed really hard for UA from the beginning since I’m an alum,”” Kimball said. “”This is a really unfortunate situation, and my heart goes out to the university. I think the world of this place, and we had a great three-year run here. We just needed a better fit.””

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