It may surprise some readers that I am recommending a non-partisan site for voters to research information about candidates. I go to Project Vote Smart at http://votesmart.org as a starting place to research everything about an incumbent candidate, including their issue statements, campaign finance support, voting records and general biography.
Project Vote Smart was founded by some very well-known people on the national political stage from both of the two main political parties. Early founders included Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, Barry Goldwater and George McGovern, Geraldine Ferraro and Jim Leach.
The purpose of Project Vote Smart is to cut through the campaign rhetoric and help citizens get to the truth of candidates’ positions and records, and to inform voters away from the slick advertising and attempts by political factions to distort information to serve their special interests. Incorporated as a non-profit in 1988, Project Vote Smart continues to grow. They are staffed by thousands of
student interns and volunteers and housed in a ranch in the Montana Sierras, where they research 40,000 plus candidate elections and compile information to make it available to voters. Each bit of data behind a candidate is checked and rechecked five times to ensure accuracy.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a ‘right-wing conservative’ or a ‘left-wing liberal’ — you can call the toll-free Voter’s Research Hotline at 1-888-VOTE-SMART (1-888-868-3762), much like calling a library, and find out how your candidate voted on legislation or how they stand on an issue. Citizens who are frustrated by the manipulative tactics of the modern campaign can use this source to check the credibility of candidates’ often misleading claims.
Project Vote Smart decided early on not to take any special interest donations, even if they seem well-intentioned, and has remained independent through its fundraising. They recognized early-on that their lower cost operations would require a steady stream of student interns and sufficient office space. Twenty-two universities competed to sponsor Vote Smart on their campus, each one willing to provide a minimum requirement of 2,500 sq ft in office space and 200 interns each year.
Oregon State University was selected to house their first center and they opened offices there and inaugurated Project Vote Smart nationwide during the 1992 elections, covering both the Presidential contest and 1,350 candidates (third parties included) for Congress and governor. During that first year, the 450 students and volunteers had trouble keeping up with the 211,000 citizen inquiries they received through the Voter’s Research Hotline. They decided to open a second center for the 1994 elections at Northeastern University in Boston to meet the demand.
In 1999, after experiencing tremendous growth and researching 15 locations in seven states, Vote Smart decided to build its own campus with facilities to house the dozens of student interns applying to their national internship program. They located in the Montana Sierras in a beautiful retreat setting named the “Great Divide Ranch,” where they have built 26 miles of underground fiber optics to support multiple secure T-1 lines for their computerized research and distribution of information to millions of citizens.
Project Smart Vote has continued to expand at their headquarters since their beginnings with more buildings and more research and analysis of candidates and issues. They are supported by average Americans sending donations and a steady stream of student interns and volunteers, and not by university endowments, corporate or union contributions, or media organizations.
For more information check out their information video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XkIxnsvSVOo