October 11, 2012

Who should I vote for? Vote Easy!

In my last post, I described how I stay informed. Although the strategy I outlined will help you know what's going on in the US and around the globe, it doesn't provide an easy answer to the question: "Who should I vote for?"

There are a number of ways you can try to answer that question. A prominent one (the one most of us think we should use) is to identify the positions of the candidates on issues that we deem important and choose the one that most closely approximates our own positions on those issues. (Political scientists call this spatial or proximity voting.) Finding out where all the candidates stand on the issues can be a difficult task, especially if you normally don't spend a lot of time following politics. And this problem is compounded because you're asked to vote for so many different offices. Fortunately, organizations exist that make this task easier. My favorite of these is Project Vote Smart.

Project Vote Smart is a non-partisan, non-profit organization devoted to providing ordinary citizens the type of straight-forward information they need to make good decisions. They ask candidates to complete the Political Courage Test--a questionnaire in which candidates can identify their positions on key issues. Many candidates choose not to complete the test; for those, Vote Smart staffers try to infer their positions from public statements and (if they have served) roll call votes.

Vote Easy is a great tool that does all of the calculating for you by implementing a simple proximity voting algorithm. You choose from a list of issues, select which questions to answer, and rate the importance of that issue. The algorithm shows the similarity of each of the candidates to your position. And once you've answered the questions, you can select other races (for the House and Senate) without having to go through the issues a second time.

Although there are other methods for choosing for whom to vote, Project Vote Smart makes issue voting for candidates for national office exceptionally easy. I'd encourage you to check it out.

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