In the words of the late, great weird Twitter account @Horse_ebooks, “Everything happens so much.” If the crush of news is making it tough for you to figure out how to vote on everything from the next US president to the next school board president, we’re here to help. Assuming you’re registered to vote (and if you’re not, there might still be time to register!), here are some of the best resources to help you understand how you want to fill out your ballot.
Read candidates’ words — verbatim
Skip the cable news spin. Rev.com, the transcription and captioning platform, offers an incredible library of current events transcripts. If you’re wondering whether a candidate’s words are being taken out of context, check out their easily searchable transcript database for everything from speeches and press conferences to interviews and debates.
Make sure your news sources are legit
If we’ve learned anything about social media in the last few years, it’s that it acts like a petri dish for “news I heard from a friend who has a friend who knows” — or even information that has only purpose: to muddy the waters of objective facts. And it doesn’t stop with social media! In fact, there are entire “news” sites designed to look like the real thing but are entirely bogus. So how do you know what you’re reading is on the up-and-up?
First, consider the source. Media and fact-checking experts advise you to start here:
Pay attention to the domain and URL. Established news organizations usually own their domains and they have a standard look that you are probably familiar with. Sites with such endings like .com.co should make you raise your eyebrows and tip you off that you need to dig around more to see if they can be trusted. This is true even when the site looks professional and has semi-recognizable logos. For example, abcnews.com is a legitimate news source, but abcnews.com.co is not, despite its similar appearance.
For other tips, check out the full article.
Get the facts
When in doubt, check facts. If a candidate or commercial says something that seems hard to believe, start searching. There are many credible fact-checking sites out there that rate politicians’ claims; here are the most prominent:
Follow the money
If you’re inundated with political commercials, here’s a tip to make sense of them: every ad is required to include a disclaimer indicating where the funding for it is coming from. It might be in the fine print at the bottom of a screen, or in the info card at the end. Once you know who’s funding it, start doing some research into the companies, PACs, or candidates whose names come up. It’ll be easy to see what they stand to gain by persuading you to vote yes — or no.
A good place to start is at OpenSecrets.org, a non-partisan, independent non-profit research group that tracks money and its effects in and on American politics and policy.
Want more? Check out our interview with a pollster for tips on reading and understanding political polls.