Sunday, October 19, 2008

Researching the Candidates

This webinar was given by Kristen Clark, who works for Minitex and the University of Minnesota libraries. She discussed various websites that can help voters look behind the headlines and political ads currently running on television and radio.

One of the sites profiled was This site looks at elections at various levels and provides key candidate positions. For current Congressional members, it also provides legislative voting history. This site includes a link where you can enter your address and zip code to see which candidates are running for Congressional seats in your district. The link will provide a profile of the candidates, where they stand on various issues, and if they accepted any PAC contributions.

The League of Women Voters website, also provides a custom voting guide which uses your address and zip code, but this site includes candidate information for local elections in addition to Presidential and Congressional candidate information. The local information includes judicial races, Soil and Water Conservation district races and any Minnesota Constitutional Amendments which may appear on your ballot.

Factcheck monitors the accuracy of the candidates’ television ads, news release and speeches. It also provides sources and relevant articles supporting a particular point of view as well as an archive of stories Factcheck has already done.

For a fun look at the Presidential candidates’ statements, see PolitiFact. This site, from the St Petersburg Times, also monitors the accuracy of the candidates’ claims, but with interesting graphics. Was Obama’s last statement “mostly true” or was it rated “liar, lair, pants on fire?” Find out with the Truth-O-Meter. Was McCain’s latest statement a half flip or a full flop? Find out with the Flip-O-Meter.

Want to know who is providing funding to particular candidate’s campaign? Try FEC or Opensecrets. The FEC (Federal Elections Commission) site focuses on campaign contributions from individuals and committees while the Open Secrets site includes information on campaign contributions from PACs and Lobbyists.

If you are more concerned about issues than finances, try Ontheissues. This site ranks the Presidential candidates on a variety if issues from the economy to education, foreign trade, immigration, and more. This site (along with Minnesota Public Radio) also has “select-a-candidate” quiz. Simply click “support” or “oppose” for each of the issues listed, and the site will tell you which candidate most closely matches your views or opinions. The On the Issues site focuses on the Presidential candidates while the MPR site includes the Presidential, Senate and House candidates for Minnesota.

Finally, if you would like suggestions for other voting related web sites to visit, or would like to view the Powerpoint presentation for this webinar, check here. The University of Minnesota created this site to help their students become more informed, better educated voters. It includes all the web sites previously mentioned as well as many others. There are also links to the webs sites of some of the Presidential candidates and their various political parties.

--Karen H.

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