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Website allows public to rate legislation, propose ideas for Arizona's future

Secretary of State Ken Bennett with Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, at right, describes Arizona Voices, AZVoices.gov, a Web portal that is aimed at helping Arizonans connect with legislators. (Cronkite News Service Photo by Caitlin Cruz)

PHOENIX -- A new state website will allow registered voters to rate and comment on pending legislation and propose ideas for future changes.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett said Arizona Voices, AZVoices.gov, will help connect lawmakers and their constituents.

"This is going to allow people 24/7 to weigh in on how public policy is being developed here in the state, here at the Legislature," he said at a news conference Thursday.

Registered voters can sign up and then rate legislation and leave comments; unregistered visitors can only leave comments.

Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, who directed a fundraising effort that made the site possible, said that during his first year at the Legislature he realized there needed to be improvements in how constituents reach their legislators. For example, his assistant took some 200 phone calls Wednesday in support or opposition of different bills.

"Think of all the ways people that try to communicate to us, their elected officials - by email, by letters, by personal meeting, chance encounters and then, by all these people calling in," said Worsley, founder of the in-flight magazine SkyMall. "There's no way to really sort through those unless someone's keeping a stroke count."

Registered voters can give support or opposition to legislation on a six-degree scale from "strongly oppose" to "strongly agree." The site then organizes the feedback by age, gender and legislative district.

The site was developed by Mind Mixer, an Omaha, Neb.-based firm that works to promote civic engagement online. Bennett said Arizona is the first to use the technology at the state level.

Worsley said he has already begun using the metrics while hearing testimony in one of his three committee assignments.

"This is an organized way to get feedback from constituents on anything moving through the Legislature," he said.

The site's other section allows users to submit ideas to their Legislature and other site users.

"We would solicit voters in terms of what their ideas are that we need to do to improve the state,'" Worsley said. "If it's not running through the Legislature but you think it should be, we want to hear about those ideas as well. People have an opportunity to weigh in on those ideas and hopefully the best ideas become laws in the future."

Ideas already submitted include decreasing the number of years between driver's license renewals and allowing a man to opt out his parental rights should a woman decide to keep her child.

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