MakeUseOf is strictly non-partisan, meaning that we aren’t going to tell who you who or what to vote for — but we DO want you to exercize your right to vote by heading to the polls on election day educated about the issues.
Now, even a list such as this can slant in one way or the other based on what we include or leave out – so if you have commentary on the resources we post or other resources you think fellow readers may use please share in the comments. We do ask that you keep it civil and apolitical at all times! We did a similar list back in 2008 – the 2010 version includes these plus updated sources where you can get your information.
One of the main complaints I have had in the past is that I never knew what or who would be on the ballot when I showed up at the polling place. In my experience at least, and I am sure in many others, the first time you actually see the ballot is when you arrive in the polling place either when you are handed the actual ballot or someone soliciting for a candidate hands you a sample ballot.
It may sound obvious but I think it is worth mentioning that I have found Google to generally be the best resource in tracking down your sample ballot. They are usually called a “sample ballot” or “specimen ballot” depending on your location. These ballots are controlled locally in my state by the County, which is further broken down into voting precincts. Since this is broken down into so many different areas in each state, with different methods for distributing information, Google is your best bet here at finding a sample ballot for your local precinct.
For example, I typed in “‘My County Name’ County Sample Ballot” and the county’s voting information page was the first result, and links to “Specimen” ballots were on that page. It will take some searching, but as long as your voter services government body offers them online, you should be able to track them down with relative ease.
Another good resource for finding your sample ballot is eVoter.com. The main negative of this site is that it only has a handful of states included in its database: PA, MD, DC, OH, IL, MN and CA. If you live in a state on that list, you can type in your address and it will display your polling place and a sample ballot for you. Hopefully more states will be added to their database in the coming elections as this is such important knowledge to have to make informed decisions.
Now that you have found your sample ballot, let’s view some resources to find out which way, or who you should vote for.
This site is really pretty cool. You enter your location and it will show you a list of the people who will be on your ballot (for widespread elections). You then answer a set of questions regarding your views on topical subjects, and it will “rate” the candidate based on how organizations who are for a certain idea rate the candidate. After selecting your opinions on a few subjects, it will grade the candidates for you and you can see how they align to your ideals. Clicking on the report details will show you which organization rated that candidate and why.
This website is a meta list of endorsements from non-profits who publish ‘voter guides’ aka politicians they have endorsed who would most likely support their beliefs. These endorsements are certainly political in nature but it is a good way to select a candidate who follows your values.
The Influence Explorer is a project by the Sunlight Foundation, an organization dedicated to ‘transparency’ in politics. This means that they wish to know the money behind each candidate and who is donating in order to get someone elected. The theory is that if you donate money to a candidate you are hoping they will vote in your favored direction once in office.
FactCheck.org is a widely known website which checks statements about issues and examines whether they are true or not. This is a great resource for bigger elections where you can track down a statement made about an issue and see whether that is a fact or not. They also examine the media and verify or deny claims made by candidates on the television in interviews and debates.
Vote 411 is a project by the league of women voters and aims to educate both men and women about the how and where to vote. You can find out information about registering to vote (deadline is typically a month before elections) and general voter information in every state. This is a good place to check out if you are new to voting and are looking for general guidance on the voting process and not the issues.
Project Vote Smart is an issues database which tracks how candidates have taken a position on certain issues. Their “VoteEasy” website is a really slick flash app that has you enter your address and will help you to select a candidate based on how your stand on the issues, similar to VoteReports above. This site is a great way to find candidates who have aligned with your viewpoints on many different topics, and the user interface is pretty cool as well.
Don’t Forget To Vote!
One of the most important parts of the whole process is showing up at the polling place on election day. Mid-term elections typically do not have a high turnout, so your involvement means that you have even more of a say in who gets elected. Make sure you arrive at the polls educated about the people and the issues of the day, so you can make an informed decision.
Image credit: Shutterstock