‘Election Day Advent Calendar' makers launch Kickstarter campaign

The countdown to Election Day is on, and the makers of an " Election Day Advent Calendar" have taken to Kickstarter to fund the 2012 edition.

So far, the pair—Ben Helphand, 37, and Paul Smith, 35—have raised more than $15,000 from 465 backers on the social funding site, just short of their $20,000 goal.

In 2006, Helphand and Smith, then a pair of civic-minded campaign veterans, created the first Election Day Advent Calendar for the midterm elections.

"We were increasingly disenchanted with the stereotypical political swag," Helphand told Yahoo News. "We were like, 'There has to be something better.'"

Barack Obama, then an Illinois senator, was among the first to get one. "My friend hand-delivered the first calendar to his house," Helphand said.

The pair self-funded the 2006 and 2008 editions, but decided to enlist the help of supporters via Kickstarter this time around.

"We're both new parents," Helphand, the executive director of NeighborSpace, a Chicago-based community land trust, explained. "So the idea of having 1,000 people essentially prepurchasing them is a no-brainer."

[Also read: The Low Line: New Yorkers raise Kickstarter cash for underground park]

Smith, a Baltimore-based Web programmer, is currently working for the Democratic National Committee.

"Sure we'd like to make some money and have it to be commercially successful," Helphand said. "But our motivation is civic. We believe in the idea of people celebrating in democracy."

The full-color, 11-by-17-inch calendar—designed by Chicago artist Jon Langford—counts down 27 days leading up to Nov. 6 with factoids and includes six Constitution-themed inserts, including the founders, radicals, citizenship, voting rights and a copy of the Constitution itself. And unlike previous years, this version is reusable and comes with a customizable PDF to create your own insert.

"Democracy is not just about one election," Helphand said. "You can reuse this for state elections, federal elections, town elections, school elections—whatever." They plan on donating some of the calendars to school groups for civic education, he said.

And while Helphand and Smith are both Democrats, the calendar is nonpartisan.

And nondenominational. Helphand, who studied the history of religion at the University of Chicago, is Jewish. Smith, Helphand says, was raised as a Quaker and is now an atheist.

"The calendar is for everyone," Helphand said.

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