U.S. Politics as Usual-Or Not

By Keiser, Barbie E. | Online Searcher, January-February 2016 | Go to article overview

U.S. Politics as Usual-Or Not


Keiser, Barbie E., Online Searcher


The beginning of the primary election season in the United States is upon us, making it a propitious moment to think about resources and strategies for tracking U.S. elections, whether for personal interest or professional responsibility. Keeping in mind that U.S. presidential elections affect people far beyond the borders of the country, a first step is to look at the websites for the two major parties in the United States, Republicans (gop.com) and Democrats (democrats.org).

Going directly to the candidates fighting it out for any elected office (whether on the national stage or local) is another route to take. A deeper dive into policy issues, plus informed thinking on both the left and the right, gives a grounding from which to explore elections, the opinions of potential voters, and an understanding of how money influences the process.

PARTY POLITICS

To delve into party politics, numerous sources present analysis and opinions on national elections as well as state and local ones. Ron Gunzberger's Politicsl (politics1.com) is up-to-date, but perhaps more dear to the hearts of information professionals is the right-hand navigation bar on the homepage that lists the sources from which the blog pulls information. To receive updates via Twitter, @Politics1.com is the handle to follow. The site's directory includes links to 2016 candidates for president, governors, the Senate, and House of Representatives. Politicsl also has an excellent write-up for all the parties--large and small, left and right--with links to each party's homepage. The most useful feature by far may be the 2015-2016 election calendar, listing the dates for each of the primaries/caucuses.

Political Resources On-Line (politicalresources.com) is a handy tool for those conducting research at the state level. The site has a comprehensive set of links to state boards of election, Democratic and Republican state parties, and state party office directories.

electionLine (electionline.org) also maintains a calendar for the 2016 election (electionline.org/index.php/electioncalendar). Other sections of the site worth reviewing include legislative changes that might affect voting, such as changes to the composition of a state's election board, requests for funding to purchase new voting machines, the right of released prisoners (who have served their time) to vote, and legal challenges to election laws, lawsuits, and ongoing investigations.

Access to the Almanac of American Politics (thealmanac ofamericanpolitics.com) is not free ($59 for an ebook), but it contains a wealth of historical information on American politics. Don't dismiss it simply due to cost. For example, the Almanac includes a profile of every governor, senator, and House member; updated demographic information for each state and district; analysis of the midterm elections (2014); and a breakdown of votes cast in the 2012 presidential election for all states and districts, including primaries, campaign finance data, and state and district voter turnout.

David Leip's Atlas of Presidential Elections (uselection atlas.org) aggregates election data from all 50 states (plus Washington, D.C.) for all previous presidential, senatorial, and gubernatorial elections and will do so for the 2016 elections as soon as results are official. It bases polling and predictions on contributions from users, so should not be the basis for reporting or decision-making.

Ballotpedia is an online encyclopedia consisting of more than 210,000 articles on American politics and elections at the federal, state, and local levels. It covers "information on government officials and the offices they hold, political issues and public policy, elections, candidates, and the influencers of politics." Each candidate has an in-depth profile. The site provides post-debate commentary and analysis, insider polls, and reviews of the issues: economic and fiscal; foreign and domestic affairs; and "political savvy," which includes leadership attributes and campaign preparation. …

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