Vote Smart: A project and a plan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 3, 1999

Don’t put away those yard signs yet. Even as we get county and statewide elections behind us this year, more campaigning is on the horizon.

Before you know it, advertisements for city, congressional and — of course — presidential candidates will begin appearing on the landscape.

And responsible citizens, concerned about doing their civic duty, will start studying candidates and candidates’ stands on issues.

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Trying to wade through the plethora of information — and to find substance beyond the sound bites — is a daunting task.

This year, though, The Democrat is teaming up with Project Vote Smart in an effort to help all of us vote smarter.

Project Vote Smart is a non-profit, non-partisan informational cooperative with the goal of giving citizens “easy access to abundant, relevant, unbiased, factual information about political candidates.”

Through an extensive research organization, dogged tracking and reporting procedures and an extensive National Political Awareness Test (which surveys candidates on a variety of critical issues), Project Vote Smart provides a nearly complete database on candidates’ comments and stands; congresssional members’ voting records; and other information voters need to make an informed decision.

The project was founded in 1990 by 40 national leaders, including former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford; Barry Goldwater and George McGovern; Geraldine Ferraro and Mark Hatfield.

More important, to maintain its independence and non-partisanship, the Project is funded entirely by grants from philanthropic foundations such as Carnegie, Ford, Hearst and Pew Charitable Trusts, and the individual contributions of 50,000 members.

And, most important, Project Vote Smart puts all that information out there for all of us.

By logging on to the Project’s web site at, you can research your congressional delegation’s voting records or keep track of current bills before Congress; you can search for everything George W. Bush Jr. has said about gun control laws or count how many times Bill Clinton has railed on the Social Security issue; you can read the results of a young voters survey, that highlights the concerns and issues of Generation X voters; and you can even find voting and registration for every county in America.

And, if you don’t have Internet access, you can call the project’s toll-free Voter’s Research Hotline (888-868-3762) for information.

The media partnerships — which include more than 450 community newspapers like The Democrat and national news organizations such as CNN, C-SPAN, NBC, Newsweek, AP and Knight Ridder — invite media participation in drafting the National Political Awareness Tests for congressional candidates.

It’s a way for papers such as The Democrat to help give its readers more of a voice in the national and statewide political process.

The presidential elections can be overwhelming … for journalists and for individual voters.

But thanks to Project Vote Smart, researching the issues and tracking the candidates is just a little bit easier — for all of us.

It’s a fascinating way to learn about the political process. So I encourage you to check out the web site (you can link to it from The Democrat’s website at www. and to share your feedback with us and with Project Vote Smart.

Stacy Graning is editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at 446-5172 ext. 239 or via e-mail at