During an election year, sometimes it can be difficult to sort through all of the advertisements, opinion pieces and rhetoric to find the facts about those running for public office. Fortunately, there are several resources available to the savvy Web user to assist in finding the information needed to be an informed citizen on November 6.
The first stop for any Maine voter should be the Secretary of State’s elections web site, http://maine.gov/sos/cec/elec. There voters can find a trove of information, including information on registering to vote, who is running for what office in Maine, which citizen’s initiatives/people’s vetoes/bond questions are on the ballot this year and more. There is a “find your elected officials” function, which allows voters to plug in an address and see what elected officials represent that address, and will also tell the voter where to go to vote in that district or municipality.
Candidates for major office, such as the presidential nominees and the candidates for Maine’s open U.S. Senate seat, will have their own web sites. The major parties, such as the Democrats, Republicans, Green party and the Libertarian party also have web sites.
Other important online tools include national web sites that are nonpartisan. Project Vote Smart, online at votesmart.org, is a “non-partisan, nonprofit educational organization funded exclusively through individual contributions and philanthropic foundations,” according to the web site. There, voters can search by the name of an elected official, a zip code or by keyword—so, if a voter is keen to find out the voting record of Candidate Y during her last stint as U.S. Representative, that information is readily available.
Govtrack.us is the government’s database of Congressional votes, so if a voter has a specific piece of legislation or roll call to investigate, govtrack.us might be the best choice.
Listening to candidate speeches and advertisements can sometimes feel overwhelming—how do voters know if candidates are telling the truth? At factcheck.org, voters can look up specific claims made by politicians at the national level. Factcheck.org is also a nonpartisan nonprofit.
Public Agenda, another nonpartisan nonprofit, offers “issue guides” that summarize major issues facing the U.S., and shares information and arguments for several sides to each issue. The web site, publicagenda.org, also offers a “Citizen’s Survival Kit” which gathers facts and information, and offers contact information for public officials.