With midterm elections just a few weeks away, many prospective voters are getting ready to decide which candidates will receive their vote this year. Yet even with the influx of information available on candidates, such as voting records, public statements and news reports, it can often be difficult to track down where a person running for office really stands on an issue.
Now, a nonprofit site is stepping in to make it easier. Project Vote Smart, founded in 1992 by former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, has launched VoteEasy, an interactive tool that enables voters to compare their position on various issues with that of a candidate.
"Our mission is to provide unbiased, factual, trustworthy information on all of the candidates running in the U.S.," said Carly Griffin, spokeswoman for Project Vote Smart, who added that the tool was especially important for voters today because politicians are becoming more and more reluctant to take a definitive stance on issues.
VoteEasy is based on the Political Courage test, a questionnaire that has been sent to congressional and gubernatorial candidates since 1992 that asks them their positions on various leading issues. According to Griffin, 72 percent of congressional candidates completed the test in 1996. Today, that figure has dropped to just 37 percent.
With a majority of congressional candidates choosing not to complete the questionnaire this year, researchers at VoteEasy have had to dig through public records, statements, interest group ratings and past test submissions to infer positions.
Bridgette Rongitsch, the national director for the Nonprofit Voter Engagement Network, which partners with nonprofits to help them engage their communities and encourage them to participate and vote, said she recommends the tool to her family and friends to help them research candidates in their districts.
"Generally, they think it's fun to use and very nonpartisan and reliable," Rongitsch said. She emphasized that the interactivity of the tool was especially important. "I feel like a lot of things around our election do not demonstrate our 21st-century capacity, and this tool really takes it to the next level. For me, and for folks younger than me, this is how they are connecting to civil society," added Rongitsch, who is 31.
The VoteEasy site is essentially a three-step process. Users must first provide their ZIP code and district to see all the candidates running in their area and then select an issue that is important to them. They are then prompted to answer a set of questions pulled directly from the Political Courage test sent to candidates. The answers are compared with candidates' views to determine who has similar positions.
The results are often surprising.
"A lot of people have found out that their positions actually match up with a candidate that they've never heard of before," Griffin said.
Will you give VoteEasy a try? Let us know in the comments!
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