Ready, Set, VOTE!

Vote
Election Day is right around the corner. People across our country are gearing up to head to the polls and cast their votes for the United States of America’s 45th President, as well as to make their choices for congressional representatives, state constitutional amendments, and local officials. Registering to vote is the easy part (as long as you took care of it by New Jersey's October 18, 2016 deadline). Now is the time to prepare to make informed choices when it comes time to have your voice heard via your votes.

There is a lot of information coming at us no matter where we look, especially as we get closer to Election Day. Political analyses of speeches, debates, and campaign strategies are being reviewed and deconstructed with new critiques for us to consider in our choices. Updated polls and numbers are available to us almost on a daily basis. We continually acquire more information about the election from radio news and talk shows, television news programs and TV ads, as well as local newspapers. Even when we log on to our Facebook account and try to take a break from Election 2016, there is still more information streaming through our news feeds about who said what, and what it all means for us, the voters.

There are resources available for you to investigate any lingering questions about a candidate or an issue you may still have. The tools below can help you in making decisions when it comes your time to cast your votes.

FactCheck.org
Look to the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, a nonpartisan group, to double-check the "factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases." A section specifically for the 2016 Election offers clarification on misleading statements and television ads, as well as fact checking from the debates. FactCheck.org offers an archive to its Ask Fact Check service, which covers questions such as, “Was the police technique of 'stop-and-frisk' found unconstitutional?”

League of Woman Voters of New Jersey
Do not let the name fool you. The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization, “encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy” for all American citizens, not just women. For example, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey has a helpful overview of the two state constitutional amendments appearing on this election’s ballot. Each document provides the wording that will appear on the ballot, background about the legislature, and reasons whether to support the proposed ballot issue.

Note: There are also local Leagues in Mercer County: LWV of East Windsor, LWV of Hopewell Valley, LWV of Lawrence Township, and LWV of the Princeton Area.

MapLight
Simply put, the nonpartisan research organization, MapLight, connects money and votes. While a section for the 2016 Presidential race is available, the real meat of the website provides “data, research services, and online tools that work together to make patterns of money and influence more transparent. Connections between campaign contributions, interest groups and votes that would have required days or weeks of manual research are now available at the click of a mouse.”

Vote 411.org
Provided by the League of Woman Voters Education Fund, this site offers the Online Voter’s Guide [http://www.vote411.org/ballot] tool. Enter your address, and the Online Voter’s Guide creates a personal, interactive ballot, which allows you to compare two candidates’ positions side-by-side.

Vote Smart
A site full of useful tools for the voter looking for more information about the candidates and their stance on big public policy issues. Vote Smart, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization, provides politician biographies, voting records, speeches and public statements, as well as campaign finance records. I love Vote Smart’s Vote Easy tool. Voters can focus in on specific issues (e.g., national security, environment, guns, etc.) to see how candidates’ views align with what they find most important. Additionally, voters can find how candidates fared in the Vote Smart’s Political Courage Test. The Test measures how willing politician’s are to share their true positions on poignant issues.

Take the time to research who and what you are choosing during Election 2016. The list of tools above allow you to investigate issues important to help you make conscientious choices. Once informed, make sure to get to the right polling place! To locate your assigned polling place, check the New Jersey Division of Elections’ easy to use Polling Place Search, or call the Mercer County Board of Elections at 609.989.6522.

—Anna Van S.

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