Thursday, September 25, 2008

Election Help

As election day nears, citizens across this vast land are doing some last minute research on candidates and their policies. While deciding who to vote for is hard enough for some people, the most difficult part of the entire process may be sorting through all the information available to the public. The internet has helped and hindered this process because political websites are smeared with lies, rumors and slander. Fortunately, thanks to the following four websites, individuals are able to check the facts and gain knowledge without such downfalls.

PolitiFact, a service of the St. Petersburg Times, is an incredibly helpful website when it comes to separating fact from fiction. The site examines rumors, things candidates are saying about each other and what candidates are saying about their policies and then determines the validity of the information. My two favorite features of the site are the "truth-o-meter" and the "flip-o-meter." The former is a gauge that indicates how true a statement is, while the former determines whether or not a candidate changed positions on an issue. Both meters include detailed articles and references clearly explaining why a candidate lied or changed their stance. Also, the site categorizes the results so readers can read through a particular ruling. In addition to these meters, the site also features articles, thus making it a very comprehensive source for political news. Of the four sites, this one is by far the most entertaining and informative.

Maintained by the Washington Post, this database is the place to go if you want to find out anything members of Congress and how they voted. Every member of the Senate and House of Representatives is accounted for, and on their individual pages you can see their voting records and other pertinent information, such as biographies and roles in Congress. You can also find financial disclosure reports, late night votes (which are considered shady by many) and which members missed votes. From a sheer information standpoint, this database is an invaluable resource. Anything you could ever want to know about members of the House and Senate can be found here. My only complaint about the site, and it's a minor one, is that it isn't very aesthetically pleasing. It looks like a very bare-bones operation and for someone not interested in this subject matter, it makes the site quite a bore. is operated by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and is very similar to PolitiFact. FactCheck analyzes issues, accusation and rumors and then analyzes their validity. I like how they break down the anaylisis of each issue. They began by explaining what the issues is and then they thoroughly analyze it using things like previous speeches and official documents. This is a very aesthetically pleasing site, and they do a good job of integrating photos and videos within the site. It appears to be very multimedia savvy. The FactCheck Wire is a blog the site provides, and it serves as a nice supplement to the other information on this solid website.

Much like the Congress Votes Database, Project Vote Smart does a great job of providing citizens with straight information. Think of it as a cheat sheet of sorts when it comes to figuring out who you're going to vote for. This site also features voting records and biographies, and I really like how it includes interest group ratings, campaign finance information and other political resources. Their 2008 Voter's Self Defense Manual provides all of these services in print form, and is available free to those who want to learn as much as they care to know about politics.

Thanks to these four sites, voters should have no problem factually determining who they want to vote for. It's hard to rely on a lot of the information out there, but these sites are clear indications of the fact that political junkies are trying to take care of those dying for as much news and information as they can handle.

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