Project Vote Smart kicks off tour in Missouri

Hugh S. Welsh

A hope for the better-informed voter has arrived.

On Monday, a 45-foot bus hailing the completion of Project Vote Smart’s Voter’s Self-Defense System pulled onto the grounds of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum.

“It’s the best defense against the kind of misinformation, spin and hype that comes from so many political campaigns,” said Tallie Spiller, press secretary for the Project Vote Smart bus tour. “The Voter’s Self-Defense System provides real facts instead of he said/she said.”

Project Vote Smart’s Voter’s Self-Defense System is a 16-years-in-the-making non-partisan candidate thinktank and the handiwork of more than 6,000 volunteers.

Costing $12 million, the database, which is one of three components to the Voter’s Self-Defense System, can be accessed via The other two components of the system include a manual and a toll-free hot line, 1-888-Vote-Smart.

The online database contains oodles of information on every current office holder as well as every challenger in every legislative and gubernatorial race later this summer and fall. This includes the candidate’s political experience, voting record, campaign finances, speeches and interest group ratings.

Either enter your ZIP code for a listing of current elections and candidates or enter the name of the candidate for whom you wish to learn more.

“We’re the only organization with a voting record and public statement profile for every candidate, even those on the state level,” Spiller said.

One of the highlights of the Voter’s Self-Defense System is the “Political Courage Test,” which lists issue positions of candidates and officer holders.

“When Project Vote Smart was officially up and running in 1996, 72 percent of all candidates were willing to take the survey, which is like a job application,” Spiller said. “In 2006, that number dropped to 48 percent; it’s a shame politicians have gone away from being forthright about issues.”

Before parking in Independence, Mo., Monday, the Project Vote Smart bus traveled more than 25,000 miles, making more than 90 stops in 33 states. When finished, the bus will criss-cross the United States four times.

Visitors to the library Monday were able to view the mobile training center, which included a projection area and free wi-fi computer terminals meant to encourage critical thinking on the part of voters.

Marcia Pothoven was visiting the Truman library with her husband when she spotted the Project Vote Smart bus and climbed aboard.

“I’m impressed,” said Pothoven, who lives in Iowa. “If it’s as non-biased as they say, it’s a very good thing. It’s really hard sometimes to get the truth with so many campaign ads that are so slanted.”

The bus is to make more than 100 stops, including the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

It will end in Washington, D.C., just in time for November’s general election.

The Examiner