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The OpenCongress Voters' Toolbox

October 28, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The midterm elections will be held this Tuesday, Nov. 2nd. With all the partisan half-truths being thrown at voters from all sides these days, at OpenCongress we want to help you find some actual facts about your congressional races. On OpenCongress, you can learn about your current members of Congress, see all the candidates running in your district, and now — watch the campaign ads running near you on our new AdTracker project. Take a moment to check out the links below, and please share this post to help more voters make their decision with the best factual information out there. We’re a non-profit and non-partisan public resource, independent from Congress and any political party.

To find who your current senators and representative are, use our zipcode look-up tool.

  • RaceTracker – See who the candidates are, learn about their positions, and get a snapshot of the fundraising race. This is a collaborative wiki project, so if you have information about a particular candidate, this is a great place to add your knowledge and share it on a fully-referenced, free and open-source platform.
  • AdTracker – In the wake of the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision allowing outside groups to spend unlimited money on campaign ads, it’s more important than ever that we have transparency in how these ads are affecting the election and exactly how they’re funded. AdTracker is a wiki project for tracking and watching all the ads in congressional races across the country and providing background info who’s sponsoring them. It provides a unique view into the advocacy work of low-profile independent political groups.
  • Voting Records – We typically find out about candidates’ voting records when they are being spun by their competitors, but on OpenCongress it is possible (and easy) to look at the actual vote data yourself. From your senators’ and representative’s profile pages, click the “Votes” tab and search for any topics you’re interested in. Looking at the actual data gives you a more accurate picture of how your lawmakers really voted on the issues that matter to you. To find more votes, check out our one-of-a-kind listing of Hot Bills by Issue Area.
  • Compare Votes – In this election more than in most, independence from party leadership is considered an especially important trait. Our head-to-head vote comparison tool gives you a view of party loyalty that you can’t get elsewhere. Compare the voting records of any two senators or representatives to see how often they vote with their colleagues and on what votes in particular they agree or disagree.
  • Bill sponsorship – In addition to vote records, it’s important to look at the bills your incumbent candidate has proposed. From senator and representative profile pages, click the “bills” tab to browse or search all sponsored and co-sponsored bills. Even more than votes, the bills lawmakers support are indicative of their overall vision and ideology.
  • Money – Last but not least, take a second to look at your candidates’ campaign funding sources. Time and again it’s been show that campaign finances are directly related to how members of Congress vote. Click the “Money Trail” tab on your senators’ and representative’s profile pages to see which industries and special-interest groups have donated to them. This is who they’ll likely owe favors to if elected to Congress in the next session.

If you need help finding out where to vote on Nov. 2nd, try this simple tool from Google and the New Organizing Institute. We sincerely hope the resources in this email help you make a satisfying decision at the voting booth. To help us continue our not-for-profit, non-partisan, free and open-source work bringing transparency to Congress, consider giving a donation. We can’t do it without you.

Toolbox pic from Flickr user bradley j used under a Creative Commons license.

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