Finding the balanced sources for voting information





By Jim Sullivan

Thomas Jefferson once said “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”  He meant that in order for democracy to succeed, citizens must be informed.   Even though our country is much larger today than in Jefferson’s time, and political issues more complex, Jefferson’s dictum still holds true.  If citizens are not informed, after all, how can they vote intelligently?   And if they cannot vote intelligently, how will democracy survive?

Being informed requires access to information.  And since most of us do not have knowledge of political, economic, social and military events through direct experience or have the time to research these events, we must rely on others for our information.  The question then is: Who do we turn to for information?  Most of us turn to the media for political information.  We read the newspaper, scan  the internet, and watch nightly television news and political talk shows.  Many of us read news magazines as well as journals and newsletters devoted exclusively to political news.  And yet those of us who want to understand both (or all) sides of current issues, find that political information is quite often not given to us in a balanced way.  Indeed most media outlets have a conservative or liberal slant.  For example, the New York Times is widely considered a liberal newspaper, while the Wall Street Journal is clearly a conservative newspaper.  Our own Citizens Journal strives to report news in a balanced way, but how can we tell if it really is balanced unless we study  it’s content carefully over long periods of time?  And political ads and campaign speeches are by definition politically biased.  Sometimes the sponsors of political ads try to fool us into thinking their ads are unbiased through a technique called “astroturfing”, where a liberal or conservative ad is inaccurately said to be paid for by an organization with a non-biased sounding cover name like “Citizens for the Betterment of America”.  Where or to whom, then, do we turn for balanced political information?

I would like to offer a few online sources of political information that, in my and others’ opinions, provide easy access to balanced information.  They are as follows:

  1. is a project operated by the Tampa  Bay Times in which reporters and editors from the Times and affiliated media outlets fact-check statements by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups. They publish original statements and their evaluations on the website, and assign each a “Truth-O-Meter” rating. The ratings range from “True” for completely accurate statements to “Pants on Fire” (from the taunt “Liar, liar, pants on fire”) for false and ridiculous claims.  The site also includes an “Obameter”, tracking President Barack Obama’s performance with regard to his campaign promises, and a “GOP Pledge-O-Meter”, which tracks promises made by House Republicans in their “Pledge to America”.
  2.  Project Vote Smart is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization that collects and distributes information on candidates for public office in the United States.
  3. monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Their goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.
  4. Is the nation’s only free, nonpartisan, verifiable archive of political contributions to political campaigns in all 50 states.
  5. CQ Weekly.  CQ Weekly reports on the U.S. Congress  covering virtually every act of Congress, and delivering  nonpartisan news and analysis unavailable anywhere  else.  The URL for CQ Weekly is These five sources of information for voters will help us all cast our votes intelligently by providing balanced, non-partisan information upon which to base our votes.  The best part is that they are readily accessible online thus  minimizing the search time to find this information in our already busy lives.

 A final thought: if none of the choices on the voting ballot are satisfactory to you, don’t simply stay away from the polls.  You can at least help this country with your vote by picking the least worst alternative, i.e., the choice that will do our great country the least damage.  Future ballots will surely offer choices you can agree with in whole or in part.

Jim Sullivan is a Citizen Journalist and retired  businessman with graduate degrees in political science and business.  He lives in Ventura with his wife Juliette and two family cats.


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