Local news

Election central on wheels

Project Vote Smart keeps track of candidates, makes information available via bus, Web site

With only about a week to go before the state primary, Lindsey Tompkins has some decisions to make about her ballot.

But Tompkins, a Washington State University-Spokane employee who has been in college for three years and was in the military before that, lives in Spokane and is registered in Oak Harbor, Wash. It’s hard to keep track of what’s going on back there, she said.

So Tompkins, along with co-worker Angela Bowen and Dipali Patel, an exchange student from England, made their way to a brightly painted bus in the parking lot of the WSU-Spokane campus, seeking some election help.

The bus belongs to Project Vote Smart, a national organization based in Montana that keeps track of elected officials and candidates for office. The group calls the bus its “mobile training center,” which is just starting a tour of about 100 communities around the country. Monday it made a one-day stop in Spokane in an effort to show voters how to get the information they need to double check what the candidates and campaigns are telling them.

Inside the bus was a small theater to show a video of how to use the organization’s Web site and computers that can connect to the site, where researchers have stored information on federal, state and even some local candidates.

“It will be much easier to look up things,” Tompkins said after touring the bus.

It’s possible to compare how candidates vote with their public statements, to see if they match, and even get information on local races, Bowen said.

“I’m more concerned about the local races for Clark County,” said Bowen, who is registered in Vancouver, Wash. “The federal races get most of the news coverage.”

Patel, who is in the United States for a year, said she doesn’t know if the British have anything like Project Vote Smart. Although she doesn’t know too much about the American elections, she said she was impressed with the information available.

Jim Camden can be reached at (509) 459-5461 or jimc@spokesman.com.

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