Readers of this blog probably understand that one of my biggest goals on this site is to get information out to voters about candidates and legislation. I have created long lists of research links constituents can use to research candidates. Two examples are my list of the 2016 General Election Legislative Races and the list of the 2016 Statewide Races (both of which are available on the menu SD 2016 Ballot at the top of every page). One of the research tools I include on every entry for a politicians is VoteSmart. Vote Smart has a mission to “provide free, factual, unbiased information on candidates and elected officials to ALL Americans.” It is a great resource to get facts about candidates. This tool also takes all of the emotional elements out of research.
For each candidate I usually link to the I Spy portion of the VoteSmart website. Below is an example of a South Dakota candidate on the VoteSmart ISpy tool. In this case I used Jay Williams because he actually completed the VoteSmart political courage test, meaning they were able to fill their database with more relevant information than others. There are sections to learn about a candidates bio, votes, positions, ratings, speeches, and funding. For some legislative races ISpy really doesn’t have information, basically because those candidates haven’t made anything about themselves publicly available or completed the VoteSmart political courage test.
Another tool on the VoteSmart website to use is called Political Galaxy. This is a cool little tool that lets gives a graphic representation of federal candidates and allows voters to find out a lot of information. For instance I went to the tool, entered my zip code, chose John Thune, chose “Agriculture and Food” and I see the following areas I can research for US Senate candidate John Thune:
I then clicked on “funding” and was able to see a long list of contributions Thune has received from the Ag industry:
It is a great tool. I believe it is only for federal candidates.
Finally I would like to mention VoteSmart’s VoteEasy. This tool can be used to uses to help voters decide which candidate is politically closer to them on issues. For instance below is the VoteEasy results for me. To get these results I had to answer a series of questions listed along the top of the screen and rate how important those issues are to me. Based upon my answers the candidates sign would move closer or further away. This could be useful for voters that don’t have time to research candidates.
After completing the quiz a person can choose Presidential Election on the left hand of the screen and see which Presidential candidate aligns best with them. Here is my result. No surprise I am closest to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. And yes, Clinton is so far back you can barely see her.
To learn more about VoteSmart you can watch this promotional video. For a promo video it has a pretty good overview of how to use VoteSmarts services.