Research Tools for Smart Voters

Best Links

The official Idaho Votes Website is a well-organized package of information for Gem State voters. For the official list of candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot, click here.
For the Idaho Votes collation of what the candidates say about themselves, click here.
For background on the two proposition questions -- on historic horserace betting, and Medicaid expansion -- and the questions as they appear on the ballot, click here.
To make sure you are properly registered to vote, click here.
Some of the best links for information on candidates and issues
Categorized links to members of Congress and all congressional activity
For communicating between voters and lawmakers Project VoteSmart
Find candidates, officeholders, voting records, and stated positions on issues
Specific for Congress members and federal legislation

AFL-CIO Legislative Voting Records
Tracks actions in the Senate and House of Representatives on job and work-related issues
Sunlight Foundation
Focuses on accountability and political actions of lawmakers and government

I Side With
Matches voters with like-minded candidates and issues
State and Local Campaign Research
Reports from The National Institute on Money in Politics
Open Secrets
Reports on donations and sources of campaign and other political donations, including “dark money.”
Rapid Response and Protest
Find links for communication with members of Congress and organizing protests

The Politifact Truth-O-Meter
Running updates of the veracity of various political statements
Voter Resources and Voting Rights
Voter Protection, State by State
Voting Information for Citizens Abroad
Federal voting assistance for servicemembers, civilian employees, and American citizens living and working outside the United States
National Conference of State Legislatures
State by state legislative resources

Richard Kimball, co-founder of Vote Smart, explains the importance of voters having access to accurate, unbiased information about candidates and issues.

Speed your search for information about issues and where candidates and elected officials stand by using the TransForm Idaho Custom Google Search Box (below). This is the same search engine developed by Google, but is designed to search within a range of Websites that are primary sources of data and factual background, research reports, and media reports that provide context, but without the sites that are primarly opinion or overtly partisan.

Other Examples of Using Research Tools

Candidates for Idaho's Congressional delegation to the House of Representatives (Top) Republican Russ Fulcher and Democrat Cristina McNeil, contending for the First District seat, and Republican incumbent Mike Simpson and Democrat challenger Aaron Swisher, competing for the Second District seat.

Although Idaho is one of the nation's 26 "trifecta" states, in which Republicans control the governorship, the state Senate and the state House of Representatives, as well as our four-member congressional delegation, this could be the year for some surprises. In addition to the profile links we’ve included with the Idaho gubernatorial candidates – essentially applicants for executive jobs – some other links are useful for learning more about the candidates for state and congressional legislative positions, where their positions on issues and voting records, if they have them, are particularly relevant.
Idaho voters will choose two people to represent constituents in Idaho's congressional districts in the House of Representatives. Candidates for the First District seat are Republican Russ Fulcher, of Meridian, and Democrat Cristina McNeil, of Boise. Both are real estate agents, with Fulcher specializing in commercial properties, and McNeil in residential properties. Fulcher, a fourth-generation Idahoan, grew up on a dairy farm and served in the Idaho Senate from 2005 to 2012, representing the state’s 21st District, then was elected in 2012 as the 22nd District Senator. He also has a background in engineering and was a sales executive for Micron Technology Inc. McNeil, born in Mexico City, is a single mother and lived in California for nine years before moving to Boise in 2003. She is a bilingual, bicultural Mexican-American who is chair of the Idaho Latina Democratic Congress, and a former vice chair of the Idaho Community Action Network (ICAN). for the Second District seat are Republican incumbent Rep. Mike Simpson, of Blackfoot, and Democrat Aaron Swisher, originally from West Virginia, now in Boise, where he worked at Clarivate Analytics before resigning to focus on his campaign and work on a second book. Simpson was a dentist before entering politics in 1984, first in the Idaho House of Representatives, and then in Congress, where he has served since 1995. These candidates present an interesting research challenge for voters because of their varied backgrounds and qualifications.
The Idaho congressional race has been largely overlooked at the national level because the Gem State is regarded as “safely Republican” based on a record that includes the fact Idaho voters haven’t favored a Democratic presidential candidate since 1952, and gave Donald Trump 59.2 percent of the 2016 presidential vote, for a margin of 219,290 votes over Democrat rival Hillary Clinton. Republican Mitt Romney won Idaho in 2012 by 31.9 percentage points. Republicans have also had a comfortable grip on both chambers of the state Legislature, the governor’s office, and most other statewide elective offices for nearly two decades. Dominance of the GOP in the minds of most voters is borne out by polling conducted in late June and early July by Dan Jones & Associates for Idaho Politics Weekly, which showed Fulcher with a modest 35 percent over McNeil’s 27 percent, with about 20 percent of the First District respondents still undecided.
In the Second District polling, Simpson was favored by 59 percent, against 23 percent for Swisher, with just 9 percent of the respondents saying they were undecided. To the limited extent political polling is meaningful, those numbers are by no means definitive. The small sample of 315 people in the First District represented a margin of error of plus or minus 5.5 percent, which would seem to look good for McNeil. The Second District sample of 285 adults yielded a margin of error of plus or minus 5.8 percent.
The race may be more complex than polls and some pundits would have us believe, especially in a year in which shakeups are not uncommon, and not just along party lines. The Associated Press, summarizing primary outcomes across the nation after Sept. 11, found about 200 women had won their primaries for the U.S. House, with 94 of candidates surviving crowded fields with three or more candidates.
Given the range of their respective personal backgrounds, measuring the congressional contenders is more challenging because only Simpson is a current officeholder. Fulcher served in the state Legislature for 10 years, and unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Butch Otter in 2012. Fulcher’s campaign treats healthcare as an issue, since he opposed the Affordable Care Act and lost in the primary because of his vigorous opposition even to Idaho’s grudging participation in most of its provisions. The objective view of Fulcher’s avowedly conservative positions – without partisan campaign jargon – is found in his Vote Smart Political Summary. Even though President Donald Trump’s approval rating has continued to slide, Fulcher has been a staunch supporter. On actual national issues, however, he has been more guarded. Candidates don’t usually refuse to respond to questions about their stance on issues, as Fulcher has. Voters who care about those issues must either search more widely, including his campaign’s Facebook posts, for clarification or consider whether the candidate has enough other redeeming qualities to outweigh the omissions. An alternative approach is to look at Fulcher’s voting record in the state legislature.
By contrast, McNeil’s Vote Smart Political Summary details her stance on key issues. But, because she has not held elective office, she has no voting record. When candidates don’t have political experience, voters need to search more widely for information that suggests the candidate’s convictions in other ways, such as in her work on immigration and Medicaid expansion for ICAN, or an interview with Kevin Richert in the Idaho Education News that McNeil gave during the May primary campaign cycle.
Simpson, the Second District incumbent, is easy to research because of his record during his long tenure in politics at both state and national levels. He is an influential Republican, and voted with his House colleagues at least 50 times to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act. But he has also been a relatively outspoken critic of Donald Trump, in interviews and on Twitter, and has qualified his healthcare stance to insist there should be a better, less partisan approach.
Swisher, who seeks to replace Simpson in Washington, sees the very length of his opponent’s tenure itself as sufficient reason for change. “Twenty years is enough for anybody to be in Congress,” he told the audience at the Idaho Democratic Convention in June, winning a standing ovation. The author of the 2011 book “Resuscitating America: An Independent Voter's Guide to Restoring the American Dream,” Swisher says the influence of lobbyists and money politics in Washington is ruining the nation, and must change. His working-class message reflects an approach taken by many other Democrats running for House seats in November. They are crafting more specific appeals in trying to woo voters, which has made it more difficult to pigeonhole their candidacies as uniformly partisan campaigns.

Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman portray Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on deadline in "All the President's Men."

Follow the Money
The iconic line uttered by “Deep Throat” in the 1976 movie version of “All the President’s Men” wasn’t in the original book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. It wasn’t even spoken by Mark Felt, the former FBI ranking official who, in fact, spilled the beans that led to the ignominous resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. But that timeless advice is even more valid in today’s post-Citizens United political world, in which money not only talks, but can, if not monitored, outshout the democratic process. And it is just as appropriate for voters as it is for investigative journalists.
To offer just one example, a group of researchers for the Roosevelt Institute generated “Fifty Shades of Green,” a telling 2017 report on the interconnections of political spending and congressional voting. There are also numerous reports after any modern election that detail how much money campaigns spent in trying to get their candidates elected, as well as reports on PACs and Superpacs and wealthy individuals who gave or plan to give ever-larger sums to particular candidates or causes. In the 2016 presidential election, the Hillary Clinton campaign said it spent $1.191 billion to lose the race, while the successful Donald Trump campaign shelled out a relatively modest $646.8 million. In the current election cycle, organizations linked to conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch have said they will spend nearly $400 million – a 60 percent increase from their spending in the 2016 election cycle. And in the campaign leading up to Idaho’s May primary to narrow the field from 11 contenders, the campaigns reported spending a total of $11 million.
As the election nears, the money flow will be an important consideration, not only for how much money is flowing, but where it originates. To see how it comes together, try your own campaign or candidate in the report generator provided by Follow the