October 28, 2010 in City

Voting help just a few clicks away

By The Spokesman-Review
 

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

Voter information is actually plentiful for those with access to the Internet. For those without a computer and broadband connection, there are two standbys.

One is The Spokesman-Review voters 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.

There are also state voter pamphlets, mailed to households in Washington and Idaho early this month. Many public libraries kept copies, even if you didn’t; check with the reference desk.

The newspaper and state guides are available online as well. A link to the newspaper’s online voters guide, which includes recent stories on many of the campaigns, is near the top of the homepage at www.spokesman.com.

The online version of Washington state voters pamphlet can be found at www.sos.wa.gov/elections.

To zero in on local races or ballot measures, you might have to go to a county elections website; for Spokane County, the voters guide can be found at wei.secstate.wa.gov/spokane/Pages/Home.aspx. The Idaho voters pamphlet, which focuses on constitutional amendments, can be found near the top center of the secretary of state’s home page, at www.sos.idaho.gov.

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

• Ballotpedia , which calls itself an interactive almanac of state politics, is a somewhat uneven compilation of state races and measures at www.ballotpedia.org. Click on the map to go 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 at www.imagineelection.com, 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, a new feature from Project VoteSmart, offers assistance in choosing between U.S. Senate and House candidates at www.votesmart.org/voteeasy. 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 at www.votermind.com, 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 limited.

• Facebook offers an application to members called MyBallot. After entering information like city and ZIP code, it goes to a page with brief descriptions and links for the U.S. Senate candidates and the state ballot measures. The ballot measure lines seem to be written by someone with a decidedly liberal outlook, and most links weren’t working Wednesday. The one that worked sent viewers to Protect Washington, a group supporting the state income tax and school energy bond measures, but opposing the rest. A possible plus: It 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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