Election Candidate Comparison

I think we can all agree that this is the most contentious election in recent history, but, in addition, I think it might also be the most important one, too. So I was thinking this morning that it would be nice to have quick access to candidate information and their opinions on various issues. After scouring the web, I’ve located some good resources that I think would be helpful for all voters to have. Keep in mind that some of these, while still representing “facts”, can certainly be written with a personal bias. You’ll just have to parse that out yourself.

First Choice 2004 by Public Agenda

This is the most comprehensive “guide” I’ve found. Instead of just presenting the positions, it walks you through the process of trying to determine your position and then helping you figure out who most closely matches your thoughts. The site says “First Choice 2004 is designed to help you make the most of your vote by having strong, informed opinions about what those choices might be. With these guides, you can find out more about the problems facing the nation and be better armed when considering the plans politicians put forward.”

CNN Candidate Comparison

This is a fairly nice effort at compiling and presenting the information in a candidate- or comparison-view. The “positions” presented are basically one-liners. I’d like to have the ability to delve deeper into specific topics.

NPR: The Candidates on the Issues

This is a fairly nice composite of a wide range of issues. Each issue (Abortion, Immigration, Iraq, etc.) contains a brief synopsis of their views with audio links to relevant stories. It’s a good place to start, though I have noticed some interesting shading of the information.

WHIO.TV Candidate Comparison

While this compilation covers some of the same topics, most of the entries have been provided by the candidates themselves, mostly, it appears, from various position papers. The problem? Their views consist mainly of rhetoric and are nearly impossible to interpret in the form of “If I’m elected, I’ll…” Not real helpful, but a decent place to start.

PriceGrabber Election Comparison

In a clever twist on their stated role as the primary location for comparison shopping, PriceGrabber provides a very brief view of the candidates.

A Proposed Math Quiz for Candidates

Okay, this has nothing to do with their positions on various issues, but it’s a must-read. For them, and for you.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I came home from work the other night and found a picture on the kitchen table that Lily had drawn. She had been at pre-school in the morning and I thought she had drawn it there. After looking at the picture, I was a little concerned…

The image was of a small girl, her face contorted in obvious distress, her little round mouth turned noticeably downward. Now, keep in mind, most of the pictures they draw in pre-school are smiles, flowers, etc. So I got to wondering what could have possibly happened at school to warrant this picture. I found Lily sitting reading a book with Char. I interrupted…

“Lily, honey,” I began, treading lightly, “did you draw this picture at school today?”

“No, I drew it here with Mommy.”

Now, I felt a little better about this, but I have to admit, my curiosity is piqued. “Why is she frowning?”

“That’s Charmaine when she was sick,” Lily said.

“Ah… I see.” Then I noticed that the back was covered in multi-color lines running willy nilly all over the page, no apparent rhyme or reason. I was about to ask when Lily said…

“And on the back is after she threw up!”

Get Out and Vote!

Even the most apolitical among us is aware that we are in the midst of one of the most polarizing election cycles in our country’s history. Whichever candidate has your vote, one thing is clear: now, more than ever, every vote counts.

It’s the nature of democracy that each individual has a voice and a right to be heard. Voting is how we exercise that right. It is, perhaps, our most cherished right, our most vital responsibility as citizens. And though most of us would agree, the majority find themselves too busy chauffeuring their kids or picking up the dry cleaning to make it to the polls. Just how apathetic are we? The election of 1992 garnered the highest number of voters in election history, and only 55% of those eligible bothered to show up. Judging by the buzz surrounding the current contest, I think you can expect that record to be broken, but it will still be a dismal display of democracy in action.

Compared with the rest of the world, America often demonstrates a lesser desire to exercise our voting rights. The site for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance shows voter turnout percentages in countries across the globe, in all national elections from 1946 to the present. A quick glance will show you that America (arguably the cradle of democracy) consistently lags behind most of the world in voter turnout.

Over the years, several ideas have been promoted to address this concern. MTV launched a dramatic campaign called “Rock the Vote” in 1990 that certainly helped boost turnout among younger voters. The campaign continues, and the web site works hard at disseminating credible information without coloring it with opinion. The site helps visitors register to vote and provides detailed information (heavily skewed from a “youthful” perspective) on topics ranging from the economy, healthcare, defense, etc. It’s a great resource for young Americans.

A slightly different perspective, with many of the same tools, can be found on the PBS site, “Why Vote?” Indeed, though the site teems with information important to young and aged voters alike, it has a decidedly more serious approach. Famous speeches and essays throughout history serve as the argument for the democratic right to vote and your responsibility to exercise it. Perhaps most importantly, the site provides links to other resources to help all voters make better informed decisions in this important and contentious election.

The most important of these resources is Project Vote Smart, a site dedicated to inform the electorate. The idea is to provide each candidate for either national or state-wide election a National Political Awareness Test (NPAT) to assess the positions they would take on various issues if elected. Unfortunately, about 30% of the US Congressional candidates and 80% of state legislative candidates in Indiana refused to complete the form, thereby diluting the value of the site by deliberately masking their positions. This site represents a great concept, however, and it’s one that I hope will see more candidate support in the future. After all, it’s up to each of us to become informed voters, and sites like these can help make that process easier. Which, in turn, could help increase voter turnout.