Thursday, September 30, 2004

Project Vote Smart

A wonderful, complete, objective (really) resource for information on elected officials and candidates

Michaela Siobhan (my 8 year old) wanted to send a letter to her government representatives to ask them how laws are made. I'm just a little ashamed to say that I didn't know who our representative was in the House and so surfed a bit to find a site where I could find this out based on our address.

I found Project Vote Smart which is a fantastic resource not only for what I needed but also for anyone trying to decide for whom to vote in state and federal elections.

For what I was looking, I simply put in my Zip+4 (every Zip+4 designates around 6-15 households - if you don't know your +4 designation just go to this site where you can put in your address and it will give you your +4 number.) and I was told our Senators and House Representatives, in addition to our State representatives with links to pages that provide their respective biographies, their primary website url, their committees, education, affiliations, and - perhaps most signficantly - their interest group ratings and their voting records! In addition, they also list the candidates for any upcoming elections for any of these offices.

I was wondering what the group's political affiliation was and it's apparently bi-partisan. From their about us page:

The gap between the ideal of democracy as intended by our country's founders and the reality of how today's political process works has never been wider. The typically irresponsible use of modern mass communication by candidates and political campaign practitioners has resulted in an unprecedented degree of misinformation, disinformation, distortion, confusion and emotional but empty imagery at all levels. The absence of any kind of consistently trustworthy system of accountability or unbiased institution to provide just the facts makes responsible voter decisions difficult, frustrating and time-consuming.


Recognizing this void in American civic culture and the need to create a new organization, 40 national leaders, including former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, formed Project Vote Smart (PVS) in 1992. Dedicated to upholding the ideal of democracy and serving the American people with unbiased and accurate information, PVS constructed a user-friendly voter's self-defense system accessible through a website and a toll-free hotline (1-888-VOTE-SMART) over a 10-year period. Described by the New York Times as "one of the most comprehensive campaign information sites on the web" and by the Philadelphia Inquirer as "spectacular" for gathering in one place the information any intelligent voter needs, PVS is becoming recognized as the answer for objective and trustworthy information. A primary goal for PVS in the years ahead is to increase awareness of its services and use by American citizens.


Project Vote Smart covers these candidates and elected officials in five basic categories:

* Background and contact information
* Issue positions, provided by candidates through our National Political Awareness Test (NPAT)
* Voting record
* Campaign finances
* Interest group ratings from over 100 groups across the ideological spectrum

The PVS website also includes:

* Public statements made by President, U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives and Governors
* Voter registration forms for each state
* Contact information for state and local election offices
* Polling place and absentee ballot information
* Ballot measure descriptions for each state, where applicable
* Links to federal and state government agencies, political parties and issue organizations
* Information about PVS membership and internship opportunities

On their objectivity, the site says,

PVS was inaugurated in 1992 by national leaders as diverse as former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, former U.S. Senators Barry Goldwater and George McGovern, and former U.S. Representatives Newt Gingrich and Geraldine Ferraro. All Founding Board members must join with an ideological opposite to provide balance and ensure strict impartiality in PVS programs and materials.


Every candidate - Democrat, Republican, third party or independent is treated with equal deference, and only relevant and unbiased facts are presented. PVS does not lobby for, support or oppose any candidate, position or issue. All PVS staff and interns are required to sign a pledge affirming their commitment to absolute impartiality.

I'm blown away. What a resource!


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