Project Vote Smart

December 5, 2011 in Community, Education, Resources

Since Project Vote Smart was inaugurated in 1992, we have offered special services and programs to journalists in order to enhance their coverage of local and federal candidates, legislation, and elections. Over the years, Vote Smart has partnered with hundreds of national, state, and local news organizations, all lending their support for our programs and comprehensive databases on more than 40,000 candidates and incumbents, used to help Americans Vote Smart.

Relevant Programs

Research Assistance
Call the Voter’s Research Hotline (1-888-VOTESMART) or email your questions to in order to access a free research and referral service for working journalists. Our researchers have access to an extensive library and databases of continually-updated information on elected officials, candidates, issues, special interest groups, and government activities, in order to help journalists with fact-checking and background information for their stories. Also view our web directory for a complete list of information found on our website.

Resources for Your Website
Ready-to-upload widgets, logos and banners make it easy for news organizations to customize Vote Smart’s information resources for their own communities and audiences. To create customized web pages and applications using all or selected parts of Vote Smart’s databases, news organizations can use our Application Programming Interface (API). The API will respond to simple requests for data, such as ‘get bio information for candidate Y’ and ‘get Votes for candidate X.’

The Political Courage Test
Each election cycle, news organizations support our programs by both informing their audience about Vote Smart’s candidate information, and by encouraging their candidates to provide relevant issue information through the Political Courage Test. Previous election-year Test results show, when local news organizations speak out in support of the Political Courage Test, candidates are more likely to provide answers. Candidates’ subsequent answers to Test questions are offered in advance of public release to collaborating news organizations, in order to enrich their campaign coverage. For more information email or call 406-859-8683.

The Political Courage Test is the organization’s flagship program, asking all candidates one central question: “Are you willing to tell citizens where you stand on the issues you may face if elected?” Candidates who reply “yes” are asked to address key issues known to be both consistently of top concern to the American people and also likely to come up in the next legislative session.

Utilizing thousands of hours of research and a vast collection of data assembled by Vote Smart researchers, this interactive tool allows the general public to quickly and easily see which presidential and congressional candidates align with their views on key issues such as abortion, immigration, and the environment. Use it now! News organizations are encouraged to link directly to VoteEasy™ by placing VoteEasy banners on their elections website page.

“The ultimate tool for pre-election research; [VoteEasy] does a great job of connecting you to political candidates that share your views in a fun, dynamic way.” – CommArts Annual

  • 2011 CommArts Interactive Annual Award Winner
  • 2011 Webvisionary Award Winner, “Visualize This” Category
  • Featured as part of the Museum of Modern Art’s “Talk to Me” exhibit” Source: Vote Smart

4 responses to Project Vote Smart

  1. Wow, I’m so glad to learn about this resource. There is so much information (and misinformation) out there, having a tool to separate the wheat from the chaff is critical. Also, as someone who follows journalism avocationally, it’s really great to learn that local news organizations can help to make politics more clear and open.

    • I agree. This is a really great resource. I wonder if Vote Smart leans either way politically or if it’s completely non-partisan? Learning about politics should always be this easy!

    • Vote Smart remains completely non-partisan, and they prove it in three ways: 1. They never accepting funding from special interest groups, corporations, or the government, and are totally dependent on small individual contributions and foundation grants. 2. Any member of their board with a political history must join with a political opposite, which has included such “odd couples” as former Presidents Carter and Ford, and Michael Dukakis and Bill Frist. 3. They operate a lot like the Peace Corps where 90% of the work is done by trained, supervised student interns and volunteers who come year-round to their headquarters in southwest Montana at the Great Divide Ranch.

      I’d also add that the bulk of the information they provide at, for example a candidate’s voting record, a transcript of their last television appearance, or their campaign financing information, doesn’t provide any opportunity for slant or bias. They are essentially putting this info all in one place.

    • Hi Carly, thanks for the details. I don’t know how long you’ve been with PVS, but I’d love to know what the project counts as some of the best uses of its tools or info over the years, by news outlets or other groups.

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