READY FOR ELECTIONS?
by Marylaine Block
Are you gearing up to provide information on upcoming state, local and congressional elections? Here are some of the sites I find most informative and generally nonpartisan.
The easiest kind of news to find is about the horse race - who's up and who's down in the polls in any given day. You can take your pick among the New York Times 2006 Election Guide <http://www.nytimes.com/ref/washington/2006ELECTIONGUIDE.html?currentDataSet=senANALYSIS>, the Washington Post's Elections, Campaign 2006 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/politics/elections/index.html>, and Pollster.com <http://www.pollster.com/>, a new site that tracks state polls for candidates for senate and governor.
For the substance of campaigns, we have some weightier resources. Probably the best all-around source for congressional candidates is Project Vote Smart <http://www.vote-smart.org/index.htm>, where you can find biographical information, campaign finance information, issue positions, interest group ratings, voting records, and public statements. It also offers minimal information on ballot issues.
Congresspedia <http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Congresspedia> also offers a lot of information about candidates, including, when available, bio, top contributors, controversies, congressional committees, affiliations, voting record, official web site, and articles about the candidate. Though it's "a not-for-profit, collaborative project of the Center for Media and Democracy and the Sunlight Foundation," and "overseen by an editor to help ensure fairness and accuracy," I recommend this with reservations, because conservatives view it as a liberal source.
Campaign Network <http://www.campaignnetwork.org/> is a joint effort of C-SPAN and the venerable political publisher CQ, which combines C-SPAN's videos of candidate debates and speeches, and roundups of campaign ads, with CQ's news, analysis, and interviews. CQ's own site, CQPolitics.com <http://www.cqpolitics.com/> offers political news for the 2006 election campaigns for House, Senate, and Governors. It includes CQ articles and a regularly updated election forecast map.
The Hill, the inside scoop source for Congress, offers Campaign 2006 <http://thehill.com/thehill/opencms/TheHill/News/Campaign/>, featuring news items on candidates, occasional state by state round-ups of polls and articles, and columns by pollsters from the right and left.
You can track the voting records of sitting legislators in the Washington Post's Congress Votes Database <http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/>, and while you're at it, check out its report on Eight Issues That Will Shape the 2006 Elections <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/bellwether/index.htm>.
There is, God knows, a plentiful supply of political opinion, and Politics Line - Political Commentary Updated Daily <http://www.politics-line.com/> supplies commentaries from over 150 pundits from the right and left, updated daily.
For governors' races, statehouse races, and ballot issues, I recommend these sources:
The 2006 Election Preview at BallotWatch <http://www.iandrinstitute.org/ballotwatch.htm> includes a state-by state rundown of ballot issues.
Governing.com's 2006 Governors Guide <http://www.governing.com/govraces/guide.htm> offers a description of the candidates, and links to polling results, candidates' web sites, to details of Congressional Quarterly's "Governor Balence of Power Sorecard Details," and to state newspapers covering the campaign. Also, Governing's Blog, The 13th Floor <http://governing.typepad.com/13thfloor/> has links to blogs covering politics within individual states.
The National Conference of State Legislatures <http://www.ncsl.org/> offers a look at "Top Ten Statehouse Election Battlegrounds," and "High Profile Ballot Measures." There's also extensive background information on the Elections, Campaigns & Redistricting page <http://www.ncsl.org/programs/legman/elect/elect.htm>. Stateline: Elections <http://cms.stateline.org/working/issues/Elections> links to news stories about candidates and issues in campaigns for state-wide office.
If your governor is running for re-election, the National Governors Association <http://www.nga.org/> provides profiles of sitting governors, and you can check out their past State of the State Speeches at Stateline <http://www.stateline.org/live/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=152&languageId=1&contentId=-1>.
Finally, for general public opinion data, you'll want to point to PollingReport.com <http://pollingreport.com/>, an "independent, nonpartisan resource on trends in American public opinion," where you can compare poll results on a wide variety of topics (Congressional job approval, direction of the country, national security, stem cell research, etc.), both with each other and over an extended time period. Polling Point <http://www.pollingpoint.com/results.html> conducts surveys about political issues over the internet, though there's no way to assess validity of the results.
The internet has made it lots easier to find voter information, but lots harder to know which information can be trusted. That's where librarians come in. I hope these sites make the task a bit easier for you.
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Edward Abbey once said of wilderness "we may need it someday not only as a refuge from excessive industrialism but also as a refuge from authoritarian government, from political oppression." I think we need public libraries in the same way we need wilderness. Both are sanctuaries of a king. Both are storehouses of diversity.
Anna Kirkpatrick, quoted in Beyond Words: BC's Public Libraries Are Changing Lives.
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