Project Vote Smart: Youth Hub For Critical Thinking Skills

project-vote-smart.gif“A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives.” — President James Madison

Love it. Says a lot to me, for despite all the techno-hype on e-gizmos, when it really comes down to it, intelligent voters need more than Vote-A-Matic, the latest MOPocket mobile voter text, a trendy Twitter application or blips of video clips to make voting decisions that impact our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not keen on electing officials based on what my ‘friends’ think, much less who’s got the coolest tech toys to create a “quick click” mentality, ‘rock the vote’ and game the numbers. To me, that’s superficial, sloppy thinking.

Yes, “technology is changing politics” as you can see by this article on international mobilization from the newsy Personal Democracy Forum and I fully agree that “networked voices are reviving civic conversation” but we need to be circumspect about how and why we make our choices.

Gleaning uninformed votes with mindless mobilization of youth based on surname, gender, age, party, or race is just a different form of mining youth, with politicians seeing kids as ‘opportunities’ instead of marketers.

Truly informed youth leaders use internet technology for advocacy AFTER they’ve filtered all the facts into data capsules for easier digestibility, via sites like Project Vote Smart. Media used this way maximizes data sharing based on your key interest areas, enrolls ‘friends’ in social media causes, and enables ‘news feeds’ and objectivity to give youth life skills and media literacy that serves far past any election date. Big difference…

Grazr sure looks handy for this sort of organizational data sifting, as you can see by this demo of Adam’s Vote 2008 list which pulls feeds into one web hub for deeper delving. (this is a sample of his personal feed, not a nonpartisan example)

Ideally, that’s the way ALL of these media tools should and could be used…to personally customize, distill and funnel knowledge into an easier form and get to the essence of the issues, comparing and contrasting candidates.

It’s important to use the power of media mobilization wisely, not just to get kids to “turn on and turn out” in 2008 with a point and click, but to make value-based decisions on worthy topics.

Here’s a mini-roundup of some worthy ideas for changing democracy through digital engagement…

Whether it’s the 10 Questions UGC video clips to tell candidates what’s on your mind, or the “call, speak, send” ability to ‘Jott the Vote’ to a politician, there are some dynamic tools to make media work for youth, rather than youth being mined by the media, as politicians gear up for the whole enchilada in 2008.

Last year on voter day, I wrote about Intelligent Vote, an online tool to quickly screen incumbent’s records, comparing your own key concerns with your representative’s voting record, to see how they align with issues that matter to you most, and whether they’re ‘helping or hindering’ any one cause.

Today, I’m highlighting Project Vote Smart’s research hotline, (‘one call does it all’) along with a few ideas in sound bite form to seed some useful nonpartisan media resources worth exploring further…

Resource round-up continues tomorrow. Here goes:

Snapshot: Project Vote Smart

“Picture this: thousands of citizens (conservative and liberal alike) working together, spending endless hours researching the backgrounds and records of thousands of political candidates and elected officials to discover their voting records, campaign contributions, public statements, biographical data (including their work history) and evaluations of them generated by over 100 competing special interest groups.”

“Every election these volunteers test each candidate’s willingness to provide citizens with their positions on the issues they will most likely face if elected through the National Political Awareness Test (NPAT).”

Project Vote Smart’s video will give you a feel for their scope, covering “16 years and over 6000 people” as the most enormous political research effort in history…They also have an interactive tour which highlights the research conducted in key categories like:

Voting Records

Biographical & Contact Information

Issue Positions (NPAT)

Interest Group Ratings

Public Statements

Campaign Finances

For me, it earns the top slot for Shaping Youth because it represents the fairness and critical thinking skills of an unbiased, nonpartisan approach that’s sorely lacking elsewhere in the media “hype-osphere.”

bus-6-for-blog.jpgI love the energy in their catchy phraseology of being the “Nation’s first Voter’s Self-Defense System” and the concept of their touring media bus, “complete with a movie theater and computer terminals to train citizens how to defend themselves from the manipulation of both candidates and their parties.” Purple? Red states, blue states blending, get it? Here’s their media bus tour schedule; rolling in to a nonpartisan venue near you…

Beyond that, they’ve set up some extraordinary checks and balances I respect immensely, edited here brevity:

Project Vote Smart: Rules/Regs to Maintain Balance

1.) No one can join the Project’s board without a political opposite.

2.) Refuses financial assistance from all organizations and special interest groups that lobby or support or oppose any candidate or issue.

3.) Operates much like the Peace Corps — of the over 5000 people who have come to help by working at the Project, 90% received no pay and those who did received minimal salaries to cover basic living expenses.

4.) Privacy protection: No selling of names, addresses, or contact information of any supporter/contributor to anyone, at any time, for any reason.

Their content is emphatic, moving, and unequivocally bold, with shades of Paddy Chayefsky’s “I’m mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore” revolt, kind of like the movie “Network” (which is worthy of your Netflix queue for certain)

Take a peek at their tonality on the Project Vote Smart site…(here’s their full sitemap of extensive data)
“This project is an historic undertaking. Citizens come together, not in selfish interest or to support one candidate over another, but to defend democracy.

It is an extraordinary gathering of people committed to one purpose: to strengthen the most essential component of democracy — access to information — even as it suffers grave attacks from candidates and political parties, many who are now willing to manipulate information and deceive voters…

Tolerance will no longer be your only option!”

Whew. Feel the heat. It points to key frustrations that we all share in the “dirty laundry media world” where it’s more common to hang people out to dry rather than get a stand on real issues.

I love their thoroughness, their passion, their soul…

Project Vote Smart is a commanding call for decency and substance, much like Shaping Youth is the rebel yell from within our industry to ‘shape up and get real’ about the impact of media and marketing on kids.

Next up on the new resources scene, Jott the Vote, a new TeacherTube partnership with 10 Questions for candidates, to engage high school youth in civics via media. And some “Cool Cat Teachers” like Vicki Davis that show us how it’s done…

It’s all about using innovation for education…Media, shaping youth in positive, meaningful ways.

Part two, tomorrow…



  1. Apologies for my posting delays…I’ve had some memory difficulties (hey, my computer, not my mind, be nice!);-)

    Catching up soon but blog backlogged big time…stay tuned…

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