Many resources are available to help you prepare to vote. In a previous post, I offered a media guide with links to some web sites for newspapers, online media, fact-checking organizations, and political blogs to help you follow current events and learn more about political issues. In this post, I will suggest some additional resources that may help you learn more about candidates as you prepare to vote.
Campaign Web Sites
Candidates official campaign web sites are useful resources. Using your favorite internet search engine, locate these websites. If you don’t know the names of all of the candidates, most county political parties provide links from their official sites. As you would expect, campaign web sites are one-sided and portray candidates as positively as possible, but they can be valuable resources. You can learn a lot about a candidate’s priorities by seeing what content they display most prominently and what issues are of such low priority that they receive no mention at all.
Multi-Candidate Comparison Web Sites
Several non-partisan organizations compile information to help voters make side-by-side candidate comparisons on a broader range of issues. One of the oldest and most respected of these groups, the League of Women Voters, provides local voter education through projects such as newspaper inserts with candidate information and sponsoring candidate debates. The organization’s website (www.vote411.org) links to information on voter registration, polling times and places, and candidates and ballot issues. The League sends questionnaires to candidates and compiles the responses. Another reliable voter education group, Project Vote Smart (www.vote-smart.org; 1-888-VOTE-SMART), collects and reports candidate responses to a survey about salient political issues. Their website also provides useful data about candidates including biographical information, campaign finance reports, voting records, interest group ratings, and links to public speeches.
Christian Viewpoints on a Range of Issues
As I have mentioned in more detail in an earlier post, the Alternative Political Conversation (www.resepctfulconversation.net) offers a forum for Christian dialogue on a wide range of political issues. The six regular commentators (of which I am one) represent positions across the ideological spectrum and have posted short position papers on 12 specific issues and a final essay about the election. This site is a good reminder that followers of Christ can agree on the essentials of the faith and differ in their political perspectives and is a good resource for comparing and contrasting a range of views.
The Center for Public Justice’s Election Series 2012 (http://www.cpjustice.org/electionseries2012) is another helpful resource. It includes ten short essays from academics and policy experts that compare the presidential candidates’ positions on a range of political issues.
Friends and Family
Although outside resources can be quite useful to raise voter awareness, another important (and often overlooked) way to learn about candidates and issues is in conversations with friends and family. If you follow politics closely, find opportunities to initiate civil and constructive conversations about candidates and public policy. If you are less familiar with politics, ask family and friends to explain how they are planning to vote and why. Such conversations, particularly with people you trust who follow a wide range of news sources, might offer a low-pressure environment for asking questions and formulating opinions.