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Spin Control

Lots of help for undecided voters

Voters who need a bit more information about a candidate or an issue before marking their ballot need not despair – or, worse yet, rely on the latest negative commercial or attack mailer they’ve seen.

Voter information is actually in plentiful supply for voters with access to the Internet. There are also a couple of old standbys for folks who like to hold paper in their hands and read ink on pages.

One is — are you ready for the shameless plug? — The Spokesman-Review Voter’s Guide, which appeared in the Oct. 12 newspaper. The newspaper still has copies of that edition available at its circulation counters in downtown Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.

The other is the state Voter’s Pamphlet, which was mailed to voter households early this month. Even if you didn’t keep your copy, the public libraries have a supply; check with the reference desk.

Both of those are available online as well.  The newspaper’s online voter’s guide includes recent stories on many of the campaigns. The online version of state voter’s pamphlet can be found here. To zero in on local races or ballot measures, you may have to go to a county elections website; for Spokane County, the voter’s guide can be found here.

Looking for the Idaho Voter’s Pamphlet? It can be found here.

Other groups have compiled different voter guides, with varying degrees of success.

Ballotpedia, which calls itself an interactive almanac of state politics, is a somewhat uneven compilation of state races and state measures. Clicking on the map on its home page will take you to Washington or Idaho; the Washington page provides links to information on the legislative races and the statewide initiatives, but not the congressional races. The Idaho page doesn’t offer direct links to the statewide and legislative races. They exist on the site, but are difficult to find.

Imagine Election, a nonpartisan group, offers an easy-to-use site for information on federal and state candidates, and statewide initiatives. Entering a ZIP code brings up the names of candidates, and it correctly flags legislative districts that are in only part of that ZIP code. It’s not very good at determining which district you live in, based on your address. For statewide initiatives, it links to Ballotpedia.

VoteEasy, new feature from Project VoteSmart offers assistance in choosing between U.S. Senate and House candidates. It has 12 topics for you to select a position, then tells which candidates are closest to you on that issue. It’s fun, but limited: for crime, the only question involves capital punishment; for the economy, the only choice is whether federal funds should be used as stimulus. VoteSmart also has its political courage site for candidates, but so few Washington candidates of either party take the survey it’s not much help.

VoterMind, a website that debuted Wednesday, asks participants their stands on a series of issues, then picks the candidate that best matches those stands. But its choice of candidates is limited: for Washington, it’s just the U.S. Senate race; in Idaho, the U.S. Senate and governor’s races. Information about the candidates it does have is thin.

Facebook offers an app to its members called MyBallot, that will link you to a page with brief descriptions and links for the U.S. Senate candidates and the state ballot measures. The ballot measures lines seem to be written by someone with a decidedly liberal outlook and most links weren’t working Wednesday. The one that was sent viewers to Protect Washington, a group supporting the state income tax and school energy bond measures, but opposing the rest. A possible plus, lets you see how others on Facebook are voting; a possible minus, it can let them see how you’re voting.

The League of Women Voters recently debuted VOTE411.org, which it bills as “one-stop-shopping for voter information. But some of the information about Washington, such as the in-person registration deadline, is wrong, and entering your address into the On Your Ballot page will tell you what congressional or legislative district you’re in, but not who’s running for those seats on your ballot. For that, they give you a link to the Washington Secretary of State.


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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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