Project Vote Smart is the major program of The Center for National Independence in Politics, a national non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization focused on providing citizens/voters with information about the political system, issues, candidates and elected officials. In recent years, technology has enabled candidates and elected officials to manipulate voters by clouding issue positions, sources of funding and qualifications for office. Project Vote Smart takes this technology and turns it around to the citizens' advantage in a unique Voter's Self-Defense System--by providing the most powerful tool citizens in a democracy can use: factual, relevant, independent information.
We are scrupulously non-partisan--our founding board, headed by former presidents Carter and Ford, is carefully balanced, and we do not lobby, support or oppose any candidate, issue or cause. To protect the independence and integrity of this Voter's Self-Defense System of information, Project Vote Smart does not accept funding from government or corporate sources, or any special interest group that lobbies. Our sources of support are entirely individual memberships and foundation grants.
Our toll-free Hotline, staffed by student interns and volunteers, and numerous publications provide access to campaign finance data, voting records, performance evaluations by competing special interest organizations, campaign issue positions, biographical background, and other information on members of Congress and candidates for federal and gubernatorial office, and is expanding to include legislative officials and candidates as well.
Project Vote Smart's services were inaugurated in March of 1992 at Oregon State University in Corvallis. During the course of the 1992 election year over 400 volunteers, interns and the small staff were inundated with demands for information from thousands of citizens in every state in the union--over 200,000 calls came in, 34,000 on election day alone. These callers talked with volunteers and student intern researchers on the Hotline, and received answers to their questions about where candidates stood on significant issues, how they were voting, the sources of their campaign donations, their biographical backgrounds, etc. These citizens were frustrated, angry and tired of the politics as usual approach of most candidates and showed that there is a national hunger for an independent, trusted source of unbiased information. Many of these citizens requested copies of the Voter's Self-Defense Manual, which contained printed information from the database.
In 1994, Project Vote Smart opened an office at Northeastern University in Boston, to make sure that every citizen with a question could get access to the information system. Now students and volunteers staff the Hotline in both Boston and Corvallis. The publications program provided 500,000 manuals free of charge during the election season, and our online services were inaugurated in August, 1994. The National Internship Program opened in the summer, as well, with students from colleges and universities across the country coming to study and work at the Project's headquarters.
Project Vote Smart is a year-round system. During off-election years the focus changes to offering citizens a way to monitor those they elected: using the Hotline, on-line computer access, and the U.S. Government:Owner's Manual to track voting records, performance evaluations, campaign finances and key legislation. A new service, CongressTrack, allows citizens to track the status of the Contract with America and other legislation on a daily basis over the Hotline. The entire effort is aimed at providing tools to insure public accountability by elected officials to those they represent.