Voting Assistance Data Research Process
My Faith Votes is committed to providing comprehensive, nonpartisan information about every candidate on the ballot to help voters cast informed votes for every race and referendum. My Faith Votes and our data providers have spent extensive time developing rules and procedures for how we collect information and what is and is not included in our Voting Assistance Center, in order to ensure we apply uniform standards and processes to all candidates.
Our systems, like democracy, are imperfect, and My Faith Votes and our providers are continually reflecting on how we can ensure the information we provide is the most useful to voters and the most fair to candidates, and working to eliminate grey areas around what does and does not appear on our site. In order to provide a Voting Assistance Center that voters and candidates trust, we’re also committed to transparency around our process and decisions. For that reason, please find a comprehensive explanation below of how we collect our information.
When researching a given candidate, we use information that is publicly available online. In particular, we primarily consider four different sources of information in an attempt to accurately portray the candidate in the way they present themselves to the public:
- Candidate Campaign Websites,
- Campaign Facebook Pages,
- Campaign Twitter Profiles, and
- LinkedIn Pages.
We do this for two reasons:
- Our mission is to aggregate information to help voters make their own decisions.
- We link to our sources of information so that an interested voter can always examine the source website for themselves.
We do not use government websites for issue stances or endorsements in order to keep campaign information separate from government-funded elected official profiles. Please note that candidate websites are constantly evolving, and the information we have collected in the categories that follow may have come from an earlier version of a candidate website.
Wherever possible, we use the same photo the candidate selects for their primary campaign social media page. If the candidate has no campaign social media, we will use their campaign websites. Otherwise, we may select an alternate but publicly available photograph.
We collect the following two categories of biographical data:
- Education (high school and above), and
- Experience (experience in work, elected office, and the military)
We aim to provide information that can present a more complete picture of a candidate’s background, and illustrate their experience to the voter.
When we look for a candidate’s education, we are looking for specific institutions and degrees from high school onward. As a rule of thumb, we list degrees without schools but not schools without degrees. We do not list minors or specializations.
For military experience, we look for service in one of the five main service departments of the armed forces as well as their respective Reserve and National Guard equivalents. The service department and the highest rank achieved or a brief role descriptor are included. We try and avoid overly generic terms (a simple “Veteran” in the Position field may be used if a candidate provides no other details) and we do not list any decorations, specific military units or deployments. Service in non-U.S. armed forces may be listed under this category but will be clearly indicated. We do not show volunteer or board experience at this time because it’s often very extensive.
When we collect data on candidates, much of our effort goes into finding a candidate’s stances on the issues that are important to them. Issue stances are displayed on our website in quotation marks to communicate that we are using the candidate’s own words.
Unfortunately, because Facebook pages and posts are harder to reliably link to, we do not take issue stances from candidates’ Facebook pages.
We consider an issue stance a statement that a candidate makes that is succinct, specific, and actionable. In other words, we primarily look for statements that clearly indicate a candidate’s stance on an issue, and allow voters to infer how that candidate will govern in the future.
As a result, we avoid listing broad stances such as “I support veterans” since these do not show a candidate’s stance on specific issues. We also only pull statements from candidate websites where a candidate takes a specific policy stance. For example, candidates may talk about their background growing up in the community before explaining why this makes them believe their district needs better transportation options. We will only display as a stance the candidate’s statement on better transportation options.
In general, we do not take issue stances from third-party sources, including news stories. Even if the stance in question is a direct quote, we tend to avoid third-party sources to prevent arguments over source attribution and copyright permissions. In order to present candidate views as accurately as possible, we try to take the information we find verbatim, only substituting words to improve clarity and without distorting the candidate’s intent.
Endorsements are generally used by a candidate to illustrate organizations or elected officials that have given their support for their campaign. We collect and compile endorsements from campaign websites. We accept endorsements from current and former elected officials, political organizations, and media organizations like newspaper editorial boards, but not private citizens, even if that individual is associated with a political party. Sometimes, candidate endorsements appear on their website’s in the form of pictures, logos, or acronyms. We make every effort to correctly identify the organization, although often in this scenario we will be unable to ascertain a distinction between a larger, parent organization and a smaller, local chapter. In this case, the broad organization name will be used. We recognize that endorsements are often announced on a rolling basis. We have committed ourselves to performing multiple sweeps for new endorsements before Election Day, but recognize that we may miss new endorsements in between these updates
My Faith Votes and our data providers aim to keep an open line of communication with candidates themselves. For this reason, candidates are able to view their profile on BallotReady.org and submit a request for augmenting or adding information that is consistent with our research standards. Candidates are encouraged to submit information to My Faith Votes' data provider, BallotReady, on their candidates page; voters can submit information by contacting BallotReady and a member of the BallotReady team will respond within 24 hours. Thank you for helping us create a more informed democracy.