"Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters." -- Abraham Lincoln
Even with all the fact-checking and truth squading, finding accurate information about the claims tossed out by political candidates during the silly season can be time consuming and frustrating. And misinformation leads to cynicism on all sides, which has to have an impact on voter turnout.
But since we’re big believers that every vote matters, we decided to do some fact checking of our own. Just how hard is it to find non-partisan information during an election? Depends on your definition of "hard." Here are some sites that can help.
The League of Women Voters Founded in 1920, six months before the Nineteenth Amendement gave women the right to vote in the U.S., the League’s original purpose was to help women register to vote. It has since grown into a non-partisan source of election information and an advocacy group for voting rights, with more than 800 state and local chapters in all 50 states. It sponsors at least two programs to educate voters -- Vote411.org and Smarter Voter, which allow you to search elections by state and get a side-by-side comparison of candidates’ positions.
FactCheck.org A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsyvlania, FactCheck.org aims to do just what its name implies: to “monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.” You can submit your own questions about dubious claims via their Ask FactCheck, or check out Viral Spiral, a list of the false or misleading viral rumors that the group is asked to fact check most often. Sample: Q: Was Obama born in the U.S.A.? A: Yes. We give you the truth about Obama’s birth certificate.
FactCheck.org also operates FlackCheck.org, “a video-based counterpart that “uses parody and humor to debunk false political advertising, poke fun at extreme language, and hold the media accountable for their reporting on political campaigns.”
Project Vote Smart This effort was started in 1992 by Richard Kimball, a former Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate. It grew out of these comments he says he delivered in 1986, instead of a planned attack on his opponent:
“Understand what we do to you. We spend all of our time raising money, often from strangers we do not even know. Then we spend it in three specific ways. First, we measure you, what it is you want to purchase in the political marketplace – just like Campbell’s soup or Kellogg’s cereal. Next we hire--some consultants who know how to tailor our image to fit what will sell. Lastly, we bombard you with the meaningless, issueless, emotional nonsense that is always the result. And whichever one of us does that best will win.”
Hear, hear. The non-partisan site (founding members include former President Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter) now offers information about candidates in five categories: Biographical data, Campaign Finances, Performance Evaluations, Issue Positions and Voting Records.
Also worth a look: Rock the Vote, which is focused on getting young people interested and engaged in elections. Celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Madonna and Sarah Jessica Parker have participated in its public service announcements designed to increase voter registration.
There’s also the Voting Information Project, which partners with tech companies and developers to create apps and other tools to give voters access to basic information like “Where’s my polling place” and “What’s on my ballot?”
Remember what Lincoln said -- elections belong to the people. So take the time to get up to speed and then vote. After all, do you really want to live with all those blisters? -- CG
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Image courtesy of flickr user Lower Columbia College