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Another group is using the rare occasion of a papal succession to educate people about different approaches to elections. A team from Making Electoral Democracy Work, a research organization based in Canada, created the site http://en.voteforpope.net to offer visitors a chance to fill the papacy through electoral systems used in France and Ireland, as well as the balloting system used in the conclave. (According to church rules, a two-thirds majority is needed to be elected.)

Each week since Benedict stepped down, the team has posted winners according to the different approaches. Although all 115 cardinal-electors are eligible to become pope, the organization had to limit the number on the ballot for their experiment to just six well-known cardinals. All visitors to the site can vote. So far, the winners, depending on the electoral approach, have been either former Quebec archbishop Cardinal Marc Ouellet or Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson.

“I thought this is an election that will get attention around the world. This is one of the very, very few international elections, so this would be a great opportunity,” Andre Blais, a specialist in electoral studies at the University of Montreal, said in a phone interview.

Mary Sullivan, a 29-year-old mother of two from Burtonsville, Md., said she saw a link to “Adopt-a-Cardinal” on a friend’s Facebook page and decided to join. By chance, her cardinal is considered to be one of those favored to become pontiff: Cardinal Odilo Scherer of Sao Paolo, Brazil.

She hadn’t heard of him before.

Nonetheless, Sullivan said she and her husband have added Scherer to their daily rosary prayer. She also sent the link to the mother’s group at her local parish and shared it on her Facebook page.

“The cardinals have a huge task ahead of them, I know they’re getting pressure from all sides, and hearing noise from all corners of the globe,” Sullivan said. “We pray for them so they can listen to the most important voice, and that is the Holy Spirit.”