Susan Rogers: Vote Smart or Vote Stupid
October 30, 2018
Don't cringe at my title — this isn't about one party versus the other.
"Vote Smart or Vote Stupid" is a slogan from one of the best nonpartisan, pro-democracy nonprofits around, Vote Smart. This organization gives you instant access to the facts on thousands of national and local politicians, so that your vote can be based on the truth, not on what you see in an attack ad or social media.
In an era when legitimate, fact-based reporting is often smeared as "fake news," how can you know what's true and what's not? Vote Smart is your go-to source for researching your elected representatives and those who run against them.
Vote Smart takes no money from corporations, PACs or any organization that supports or opposes candidates or issues. Its board of directors has equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats to ensure balance and strict impartiality. Its volunteers and interns commit up to two years of their lives to the organization, so that, in their words, "citizens can better defend themselves from the questionable rhetoric and misrepresentation that characterizes present-day political campaigns."
The Vote Smart database is integrated with their very sophisticated website (http://www.VoteSmart.org), which makes it easy (and almost fun) to research what elected representatives and their challengers stand for. Here's how Vote Smart describes their various website features:
ISpy – Enables every citizen to research the records of more than 40,000 politicians in a keyword-searchable database: every biography, vote, issue position, rating, speech, and political contribution received. Just choose a politician or candidate you're interested in learning more about and quickly find every available fact about them in the above categories.
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Political Galaxy – Takes each voter on a ride through the universe of facts on any politician. Select an issue and instantly arrive at every fact related to that person on that issue.
VoteEasy – Enter your position on a dozen of the nation's most-pressing issues and instantly find every fact related to that person on that issue. Quickly see which candidates best align with your views on the issues that matter most to you, as "yard signs" move forward in agreement or recede in disagreement, based on their public record.
MyVoteSmart – Identify any politician of interest and Vote Smart will email you any time new data (including any new public statements, votes, money received or a new rating) on that politician is entered into their database.
Voter's Self-Defense Manual – A free 100-page report on all 50 states' Congressional delegations, including key votes, finances and ratings. Download it from their website or call to have one mailed to you.
Voter's Research Hotline – if you don't have computer access or can't find what you want on the website, dial toll-free 1-888-VoteSmart and talk to your own personal researcher, who will look up anything you need to know.
Political Courage Test – a questionnaire sent to every candidate running for office, including incumbents, asking their positions on issues. Sadly, only 12 percent of candidates answer the questions, usually because they believe their opponent will use the answers against them. Neither Congressman Doug LaMalfa nor his opponent Audrey Denney answered the Political Courage test.
Vote Smart is one of the few organizations that compiles endorsements and ratings from all special interest groups that provide them, regardless of issue or bias. A public endorsement represents an interest group's official support for a candidate, typically announced in the weeks leading up to an election. Want to make sure your candidate is endorsed by Planned Parenthood, the NRA, the ACLU or the American Conservative Union? Vote Smart has collected over 12,000 endorsements for 2018 elections.
Ratings represent an interest group's performance evaluation of a politician. Typically, these are based on voting records of legislators in office but can also be based on questionnaires sent to candidates. Vote Smart converts the ratings into an easy-to-understand percentage.
A new, free Vote Smart mobile app can help you vote smarter via your smart phone. OnPoint is a free app for Apple and Android devices. It geolocates to your current location to find you the most relevant facts about your local representatives and candidates, including:
How they voted on key issues
Every public comment they have made on key issues
How more than 200 liberal-to-conservative special interests have graded their actions
Helpful summaries on upcoming ballot measures
All this information is free, but donations are gratefully accepted and always needed. I have supported this organization for years, and for the sake of truth, justice and the American Way, encourage you to do the same.
Susan Rogers is a member of The Union's Editorial Board. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Editorial Board or its members. She can be reached at EditBoard@theunion.com.