Speaking of Project Vote Smart, my neighbor and State Rep. Gerry Lange just pointed me toward a cool little candidate comparison app at VoteSmart.org. VoteEasy lets you indicate your position on a range of issues (abortion, Afghanistan, crime, economy...) as well as the relative importance of those issues to you. VoteEasy then compares your positions with your Congressional candidates' positions.
The Project Vote Smart folks say they spent thousands of hours punching votes, public statements, and other candidate info into their database. All that data gets translated into a nice, simple graphic: as you enter positions, little yard signs with each candidate's face move toward you or away from you. They also include little percentages showing how similar each candidate is to you.
My disheartening results:
Politically, none of South Dakota's Congressional candidates are like me. Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is closest to my politics, and she's only 43% similar. Republican Kristi Noem is just five percentage points back at 38%. Independent B. Thomas Marking scores 18% on my scorecard; Republican Senator John Thune scores 10%.
So if I take VoteEasy's analysis at face value, I'll only be a little more frustrated with Kristi Noem than I will be with Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Teabagger vs. BlueDogger—is there really that little difference?
Fortunately I can question that analysis. Just twelve issues, each represented by a single question, may not accurately capture the full breadth of one's political philosophy. The twelve questions proposed happened to address some key issues—public option health insurance, gun rights, definition of marriage—on which SHS and I disagree. The environment question asks only about climate change and ignores a host other issues like pollution, erosion, and wilderness preservation (although SHS still hasn't spoken up in favor of the Tony Dean Cheyenne River Conservation grassland wilderness... I'm waiting!). SHS and I could probably find a number of other specific policy issues—like, say, the Tribal Law and Order Act—that would increase our similarity rating.
Still, I leave for your enjoyment the question of what it means that Herseth Sandlin and Noem seem more similar to each other than to the Madville Times.
But enough about me: click on each yard sign, and wow! you get all sorts of tasty information, like SHS's 71% party loyalty rating on 31 key votes. (Senator Thune has 100% party loyalty on 45 key votes.) The app lists those key votes, as well as endorsements, campaign finance info... this program is one heck of an electoral dashboard!
Don't take my word for it. Try VoteEasy yourself, see how similar the candidates are to you, and tell me (and the Project Vote Smart folks!) what you think.
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