There’s a lot of talk about fake news and misinformation these days. I mean, we’ve all read a Yelp review for a restaurant with the "best mimosas EVERRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!" and been disappointed when confronted with the reality of flat champagne and store-bought OJ. But while we have our go-to sites for restaurant reviews and other info, it isn’t always easy to find a go-to source of information about the candidates you’ll see on your midterms ballot.
To cast an informed vote, you need to know where the candidates in your district stand on the issues you care about, what they plan to do about them, and whether they have the experience to pull it off. And that’s just for starters.
There are some comprehensive online tools to help you research the candidates in your district, their policy positions, and their political experience. At VOTE411.org, an informational website launched by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters Education Fund, you can enter your location and receive a guide to the races and candidates you’ll encounter in November.
And if you’re looking for an even more comprehensive website, Ballotpedia may be a good resource. Ballotpedia is a digital encyclopedia of information about U.S. politics, and it’s sponsored by the nonpartisan Lucy Burns Institute. You can find just about any information you’re looking for by using the search bar. Unlike Wikipedia, Ballotpedia’s articles are all penned by professional writers and researchers, so you don’t have to worry about random people editing a page about your congressional district to insert memes or spread disinformation. And, speaking of your congressional district, Ballotpedia also has a tool that will show you your sample ballot.
I really like local info. Are there other options?
In some states, you can request more information by checking the website for your local board of elections or secretary of state. The amount and kind of information you’ll find on these official voter guides varies, though.
You can also find out more about the candidates in your district by looking at their campaign websites and social media. A tweet is worth a thousand words! No need to worry about getting duped by a parody account, either. In May, Twitter started labelling candidates’ profiles with badges indicating that they are indeed running for office.
Plus, keep an eye open for live appearances and debates — and pay attention to your local news as well. Your local TV stations, newspapers, and radio stations are covering the midterms in-depth. The more information you have, the stronger of an opinion you’ll be able to form about the candidates who appear on your ballot, and the better equipped you’ll be to weed out hyperbole and misinformation.
How do I know if what the news is saying is true?
Reporters put a lot of work into making sure their writing is as objective and informative as possible, so as long as you’re reading the news, you’re heading in the right direction.
If you’re reading information from any news source worth its salt, whether it’s Politico, The New York Times, or your local TV station’s website, opinion pieces should be clearly marked to differentiate from straight news. Sometimes opinion pieces are referred to as “columns” — that means one person is getting paid to write an opinion piece on a regular schedule — and sometimes they’re called “editorials” or “op-eds.” Either way, check what section you’re in.
You can also look into who’s producing the information you’re reading. All news sites have an “About” page that provides some background information on what the source may stand for. For example, The Daily Signal states that it provides conservative commentary and was created by the Heritage Foundation, an organization that promotes conservative public policy. Meanwhile, ThinkProgress is clear that it provides news from a progressive perspective and is a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
You can still find useful information through partisan news sources — just keep their political leanings in mind.