Thursday, September 25, 2008

Online Political Databases Factcheck does exactly what the name says - they check and double check what politicians claim against the cold, hard facts. Basically, it's a bunch of articles, mainly on Obama and McCain's speeches and television commercials. Before this class, I have never heard of this website. I do like the "Ask FactCheck," where they answer a daily question. Today's was:
How many times did Obama vote 'present' as a state senator?
He did so 129 times, which represents a little more than 3 percent of his total votes.

Frankly, I don't like it that much. I don't think that it's organized as well as it could be. I don't like how the website is set up in general too... and they don't offer much else besides articles. I wish they had more to offer and a more user-friendly setup.

PolitiFact: This is one of my favorite political database websites. My favorite part of PolitiFact is The Attack File, where the staffers collect quotes from the candidates and then measure the "truthfulness" (thank you Stephen Colbert) of each quote, with a cute little image of a meter that measures the truthfulness. I also like how they're somewhat satirical in explaining their quotes in detail. I love how their newest feature is the flip-o-meter: Somewhere, Mitt Romney is crying. There's not much I don't like about this site, and nothing I'd want to change about this website.

Congress Votes Database: This website is run by the Washington Post. The site allows visitors to look at every vote made by any senator or representative since 1991. I love how organized the website is: There are links to late-night votes, key votes, members who have missed the most and least number of things to vote on, and narrow and wide voting margins. This is a website that everyone should look at before November 4th, especially to prepare to vote for their state representative and senator. I learned that my senator, D-Jack Reed, votes with his party 95.8% of the time. He's missed votes 0.8% of the time. He's up for re-election this fall, and there's no doubt in my mind that I will be voting for him. My other senator, D-Sheldon Whitehouse, has similar numbers, but has only missed 0.5% of votes. My state representative, D-James Langevin, has missed slightly over 1% of the vote and votes with the Democratic party 98.7% of the time. I love that this site is super informative, but on the negative side, all it is is statistics and doesn't have any fluff, or any wit/sarcasm that some of the other political sites out there have. However, you do learn a lot about your state's participation in Congress and that's what matters in the end. I wouldn't change a thing about this site.

Project Vote Smart: I did not know about Project Vote Smart before taking this class, and now I'm trying to learn as much about it as possible. Their about us page is absolutely perfect, and a quote from their about us page where they talk about themselves:

Picture this: thousands of citizens (conservative and liberal alike) working together, spending endless hours researching the backgrounds and records of thousands of political candidates and elected officials to discover their voting records, campaign contributions, public statements, biographical data (including their work history) and evaluations of them generated by over 100 competing special interest groups. Every election these volunteers test each candidate's willingness to provide citizens with their positions on the issues they will most likely face if elected through the Political Courage Test.

This is just a great effort by the staffers working on this website. Their main concern is that the average voter can go onto their website and find out everything that has been uncovered about any person in office. They also have links that direct people how to register to vote in their state if they haven't already, voting records for their candidates (just like the Congress Votes Database) and so much more. My only complaint is that I wish this site could be a little more fun. Their about us pages, as much as I like them, are a bit too serious and I hope they lighten up a bit. Also, they don't really write their own material, there are no links to articles that staffers have written. They really only have dedicated themselves to gathering information.

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