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 they collect information and what is and is not included in our Voting Assistance Center, in order to ensure they apply uniform standards and processes to all candidates.
These processes and procedures, like democracy, are imperfect, and My Faith Votes and our providers are continually reflecting on how we can ensure the information provided is the most useful to voters and the fairest to candidates. Together, we work to eliminate grey areas around what does and does not appear in our guides. In order to provide a Voting Assistance Center that voters and candidates trust, we are committed to transparency around our process and decisions. For that reason, please find a comprehensive explanation below of how the information is collected.
When researching a given candidate, information that is publicly available online is used. In particular, three different sources are primarily considered in an attempt to accurately portray the candidate in the way they present themselves to the public:
- Candidate Websites,
- Facebook Pages, and
- Twitter Profiles.
This is done for two reasons:
- To aggregate information for a voter to make their own decisions.
- Information is linked to its source so that an interested voter can always examine the material for themselves. Government websites are not used in order to keep campaign information separate from government-funded elected official profiles.
The candidate photos that candidates post as their social media profiles are used in the guide. If a candidate has no social media preference their campaign website image is used. If a candidate has a series of photos available to the public, an image that best meets the format of the guide is used.
A good candidate photo resembles an ID photo. It has the candidate’s face in the center, looking into the camera and does not contain intrusive text or other markings. It should not have any other people except for the candidate. However, if it is fairly apparent who the candidate is in the photo or there are no other options, an image with multiple people may be selected.
The following two categories of biographical data are collected:
- Education (high school and above), and
- Experience (experience in work, elected office, and the military)
The aim is to provide information that can present a more complete picture of a candidate’s background and illustrate their experience to the voter.
When a candidate’s education is reviewed, specific institutions and degrees from high school onward are reviewed. As a rule of thumb, degrees are listed without schools but not schools without degrees, and minors or specializations are not listed.
For military experience, service in one of the five main service departments of the armed forces as well as their respective Reserve and National Guard equivalents is reviewed. The service department and the highest rank achieved or a brief role descriptor are included. Overly generic terms (a simple “Veteran” in the Position field may be used if a candidate provides no other details) are avoided and any decorations, specific military units or deployments are not listed. Service in non-U.S. armed forces may be listed under this category but will be clearly indicated.
Volunteer or board experience are not shown because it’s often very extensive and harder to verify time periods.
When data on candidates is collected, the effort goes into finding a candidate’s stances on the issues that are important to them. Issues displayed in quotation marks as a direct quote from the candidate or from a source that reflects the views of the candidate like the candidate’s campaign page are included in the guide. Unfortunately, because Facebook pages and posts are harder to source, stances from candidates’ Facebook pages are not taken.
An issue stance is considered as a statement that a candidate makes that is succinct, specific, and actionable. In other words, statements that clearly indicate a candidate’s stance on an issue and allow a voter to infer how that candidate will govern in the future are primarily reviewed. As a result, simply listing broad stances such as “I support veterans” since these do not show a candidate’s stances on specific issues are avoided. Additionally, only statements from candidate websites where a candidate takes a specific policy stance are pulled. 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 option. The candidate’s statement on better transportation options will only be displayed as a stance in the guide.
As a rule, issue stances from third-party sources, including news stories are not taken. Even if the stance in question is a direct quote, third-party sources tend to be avoided, as to prevent arguments over source attribution and copyright permissions.
In order to present candidate views as accurately as possible, the information is taken verbatim, rather than changing words and unintentionally distorting their intent.
Endorsements are generally used by a candidate to illustrate organizations or elected officials that have given their support for their campaign. Endorsements are collected and compiled from campaign websites. Endorsements from current and former elected officials are accepted, but not private citizens, even if that individual is associated with a political party.
Sometimes, candidate endorsements are illustrated in the form of pictures of a logo or acronym. Every effort is made to correctly identify the organization, although often in this scenario it is not possible to ascertain a distinction between a larger, parent organization and a smaller, local chapter. In this case, the broad organization name will be used.
Endorsements are often announced on a rolling basis. Every effort is made to perform multiple sweeps for new endorsements before Election Day but recognize that new endorsements may be missed in between these updates.
Attempts are made to contact every candidate where contact information has been obtained for an opportunity to view their profile and augment or correct any information that is displayed in the guide. Submissions from users who can link to a source are also accepted.