The first person whom I ever supported for the U.S. presidency wasn’t actually a person at all; it was Mickey Mouse, with Cinderella as his vice president. It’s a good thing that toddlers aren’t allowed to vote.
It’s also fortunate that in today’s technology-obsessed culture, the Internet can help voters confidently make informed decisions. Avoid being overwhelmed by the length of your ballot on Election Day, Nov. 6, by checking out some of these non-partisan websites.
Think of this easy-to-use site as Match.com, eHarmony or OkCupid, but for political candidates instead of romantic partners. After taking a short, multiple-choice quiz on political beliefs, users are shown which presidential candidate they “side with” most — to an exact percentage. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are of course options, but so are third party candidates Rocky Anderson, Virgil Goode, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. You can even compare candidates across individual viewpoints, check out which candidate users from each U.S. state “side with”, and rank how important each political issue is it to you. Plus, the site is fully integrated with social media, making it easy to share your personalized result.
With so many items on the ballot — state representatives, county commissioners, school board members, constitutional amendments, oh my! — voting may seem like yet another overwhelming school exam. But fortunately, unlike with an academic quiz, it’s perfectly acceptable to bring a “cheat sheet”, in the form of sample ballot, to the polls. You can avoid the daunting task of memorizing candidates’ names by heading over to vote-usa.org, which will display all your state and federal office contests and ballot measures.
Obtaining a complete sample ballot, with your all your local and district options, is also quite easy to do online. For example, typing “Broward County, sample ballot” into Google yields www.browardsoe.org/PrecinctFinder.aspx, allowing residents to print out a ballot specific to their address.
Not sure if you’re even eligible to vote? Perhaps you can’t remember if you ever actually mailed in that voter registration card? No problem. Simply tell this site your name, birthdate and state. Within just a few mouse clicks, you’ll see your voter eligibility status, along with your date of registration and the political party you’re registered under — if applicable. For most states, the site also provides quick links to learn of your designated polling location and check on any requests for an absentee ballot.
The intense media coverage that the presidential candidates receive may leave many people in a predicament: they decided months ago whom they support as president and are passionate about that candidate, but they have no idea who’s even running for congress. Obama and Romney are household names, but Ted Deutch? Connie Mack? Who are they? Votesmart.org will tell you. With the site’s “VoteEasy” tool, users will learn not only the names of their U.S. Senate and House of Representatives candidates, but can also compare their political positions. Answer yes or no questions — on social secruity, education, health care, and 10 more political topics — to narrow down the candidates who agree with you most.
Just as pressing 4-1-1 on your phone will connect you to local directory assistance, typing Vote411.org into your web browser will connect you to local voting assistance. Prepare yourself for voting day by learning of your polling place hours, state laws regarding time off, assistance services available for voters with disabilities, required forms of ID, descriptions of the voting machines, and much more. The site also highlights specific online resources within your state’s official election website, such as the full text of proposed constitutional amendments and early voting information.
Named after the number of electoral votes that a candidate needs to win the presidential race, 270towin.com features an interactive map of the Unites States, allowing users to see how different state results will affect the entire Electoral College outcome. You can also create your own personalized map, predicting the results, to share online with friends. The site also shows the entire history of the Electoral College’s results, since George Washington’s victory in 1789. Other features include House and Senate maps, updated poll results for every state, and a quiz to test your knowledge of the Electoral College.