The Top 6 Voting Tools for November 6: The Best Voter Education Resources for the 2012 Election

Personal Finance

by Susan Lyon

So you woke up today and realized the election is just over 6 weeks away, did you?  Quick: who will you check the box for, Obama or Romney?  And what about at the Congressional and local levels?  Bet you can’t name everyone on the ballot yet, can you?

Don’t worry – NerdWallet to the rescue.

Here they come to save the day: the 6 before 6.  These are the best 6 voter education tools we think you should try out before November 6 – and you have just 6 weeks to do it!  Whether you’ve just recently started voting, you’ve stopped caring about politics, you’ve been spending months trying to convince all your friends to vote, or you fall somewhere in between, we’re confident at least one of these innovative tools will help you do your homework for November 6, 2012.  And since it’s our job, we’ve already done a lot of the homework for you: read on.

#1: VoteEasy: Get Help To “Find Your Political Soulmate”

So you know you want to vote this November, but not sure who to vote for?  The VoteEasy tool is for you.

In today’s rapid-fire political environment where candidates, campaigns and TV ads spew lies and half truths to the media, it can be quite hard to know what a candidate really stands for and how they’ll really behave if elected. VoteEasy, by Project Vote Smart, brings light to the real truth by providing in depth and heavily fact checked research on candidates’ track records.

Billed as the voter’s own self-defense system, VoteEasy is a search tool that allows you to rank the issues that matter the most to you.  It then spits out candidates based on their voting records that match up best with you.  It helps you to “find out which candidates are most like you” and you can sort by issue (energy, abortion, national security, etc.) or by race (Presidential, Congressional, etc.).  Created by Democrats and Republicans working together, VoteEasy is run out of the Montana Rockies and is powered heavily by citizen volunteers across the political spectrum.

#2: The Ballot (TheBallot.org): Your Social Voting Guide

Are you obsessed with social media and debating politics?  Though voting was only for loners?  Well think again, social media gurus, because this tool called TheBallot is most definitely for you.

Because we couldn’t pick just five, here’s a bonus sixth – definitely the social media winner.  It combines social media, technology, and politics into one – what’s a nerd not to love?  First it lets you research the people and issues that will be on your ballot where you live.  Then it lets you compare and discuss with friends online whether it be via Facebook, Tumblr, Google+ or another favored method.  What’s a nerd not to love?

#3: Voto Latino: Empowering Latino Youth to be Heard

Not every American voice is being heard in our political system, and we need to change that.  Are you into people, power and politics, or are you into Rosario Dawson, the Voto Latino founder and, of course, famous actress?  Either way, you need to visit Voto Latino stat.

Only a small fraction of the 9 million American Latino youth in the U.S. are currently active voters, and Voto Latino seeks to change that by “empowering American Latinos to claim a better future by voting.”  In addition to its voter registration guide and FAQ, Voto Latino also provides a portal for young Latinos interested in civic engagement and those hoping to learn more.  They focus on the youth vote in particular because 50% of all eligible Latino voters are under 40, and by 2050 Latino youth are expected to compromise 29% of the U.S. youth population.  So let’s get out there and vote!

#4: Smart Voter: Showing Up is Half the Battle

Already know whom you want to win the White House, but haven’t thought twice about your local elections or where to show up on voting day?  Smart Voter is your secret weapon so you can do your homework in advance.

Hosted by the League of Women Voters California, Smart Voter is a nonpartisan tool that lets you find your own election center and also see exactly what your local ballot will look like.  This database lets you enter in your street address to figure out what your voting place and ballot will be come November, so you can prepare and do your research (see tool #1 above) in advance.  Phew.

#5: AARP’s Voting Guide: Because “You’ve Earned a Say”

Are you in, near, or planning for retirement?  This You’ve Earned a Say tool focuses on the issues that are probably the nearest and dearest to your heart.

AARP released this August the “You’ve Earned a Say: Vote for Retirement Security” guide for presidential, senatorial, and congressional races, focusing specifically on the issues that matter to retirees.  Social Security and Medicare top the list of course, but it also investigates the candidates’ other policy platforms around financial planning and security.  After years of paying into Social Security and Medicare, Americans deserve to know their politicians will keep their campaign promises once elected.

#6: Rock The Vote: Making Voting Cool Enough for Your Friends

Are you young, hip (or nerdy), and ready to register to vote?  Are you already a voting rockstar, and you want to build the movement?  Rock the Vote could use your voice.  It’s a classic.

Rock the Vote is all about getting young people to vote, and rightfully so: in 2012 the Millennial Generation now makes up nearly a quarter of the entire electorate.  Since its inception Rock the Vote has registered more than five million people to vote –with millions more to go.  You’ve probably seen them on your college campus before, too.  Rock the Vote’s mission is to “engage and build political power for young people in our country” and they are still going strong!  If you want to harness the power of music, pop culture and technology to affect broad grassroots change, be sure to check them out.

In Conclusion

Get out there, don’t be square: this November, don’t forget to vote!  Even though our Presidential Election Tracker calculates Romney’s statistical odds of winning to be only 17% currently, at the end of the day it’s people like you will determine the real election outcome. Who are you going to vote for? We interview Professor Ho to learn about the behavioral psychology behind voting and why he thinks you shouldn’t focus on the issues, but rather on the candidate’s character.

Do you just need to register to vote, no questions asked?  Well why didn’t you say so sooner!  This website is the no frills approach: just register me to vote already, please.  Going to school out of state, voting abroad, or have other special conditions?  It can advise you there too.  Their disclaimer states that this website is paid for by Obama for America, but any eligible citizen of any political affiliation can use it to register to vote.