If you ask us, one of the greatest gifts the Web has given us is the ability to be absolutely neurotic and obsessive spectators of the sport we call politics. Every fumble, dirty play and minuscule statistical update is ours to voraciously devour. With the 2010 midterm elections today, some of you may be wondering how to keep tabs on the flood of electoral news. Thankfully, we're here to help. Whether you want to check the veracity of a claims in campaign commercials, wondering how much the pharmaceutical industry has donated to your incumbent congressperson, or if you just want to know where to cast a ballot, we've got the tools to answer your burning questions. Find our picks for the best online election day resources after the break -- and, of course, DON'T FORGET TO VOTE!
Where is your polling place?
The most important part of election day is actually casting your vote. Whether it's for the House, the Senate, governor or marijuana, you can't complain about the results if you don't fill out a ballot (Unsure if you're registered? Try CanIVote.org.) Google's got your back with its handy Election Center Maps mashup. Enter your address and it'll spit out your voting location, your election board's office, links to official government sites and notable races on the ballot. If you forget to check it before walking away from your computer, you can also use the site from your phone by visiting m.google.com/elections.
What are their positions?
If, for some reason, you haven't yet made up your mind on who to vote for -- or if you just want to double-check that you're making the right decision -- there are plenty of sites and services for judging a candidate's positions and character. On The Issues won't win any design awards, but it's one of the most comprehensive databases of stated candidate positions we've ever seen. It claims to have data on every political leader on every issue; while that may certainly be overstating, the site comes admirably close to its goal. The 'Perpetually Public Data Project' (which we reported on previously) monitors candidates' and officials' sites for changes in positions -- though it is limited by the efforts of its all-volunteer staff.
Where is the money coming from?
One of the most common ways to track influence in Washington is to monitor money. If you know what companies and industries are contributing the most to a particular candidate, you can get a pretty good sense of their legislative priorities and where their power lies. Wired has its own Influence Tracker, powered by MapLight.org, that tracks not just contributions, but also your official's estimated ranking in the House or Senate hierarchy. One our favorite new tools this election season, Poligraft, adds a little more interactivity to the usual influence tracking by visually linking organizations, businesses and individuals. While you can paste text or URLs into the site, we prefer to use the bookmarklet that looks for mentions of politicians in articles and pulls up data about their primary contributors in a sidebar. Those with a taste for the conspiratorial should check out the Foreign Lobbyist Influence Tracker, a joint project from ProPublica and the Sunlight Foundation. And then there's the always-reliable OpenSecrets.org, which offers not just raw data, but news and analysis.
Who is full of it?
Accusing politicians of being liars is trite at this point (and a bit like pointing out that kittens are cute: obvious and unnecessary). But still, it's sometimes satisfying to catch a politician or candidate in an act of deception. The two stalwarts of the fact-checking industry are still going strong, and are still the two best sources for separating facts from campaign hyperbole and bald-faced lies. When you want to know if that commercial claiming that so-and-so voted to raise taxes 37,000 times is telling the truth, FactCheck.org is there to help. To see just how totally out of line that ad from some knee-jerk political group is, turn to PolitiFact for a handy Truth-O-Meter rating.
Where to watch the results?
When it comes to monitoring the results and getting your fill of analysis and commentary, there are plenty of places to turn. Partisans can head to Fox for a reliably conservative perspective, while fiery liberals can head to MSNBC for their own brand of demagoguery. For those who want all the hype and hyperbole without a distinct political agenda, there's always CNN. All three sites will offer interactive maps, charts and plenty of video coverage. If you're a high-minded progressive, your local NPR affiliate is likely streaming its coverage of the midterm elections for your enjoyment. You can also go to more data-driven outlets like Real Clear Politics and Google's Election Ratings Map for simple results without all the hoopla.
There's no shortage of places to get your fill of politics this election season. From CQ Politics to Politico to Politics Daily (owned by our benevolent overlords at AOL), there are likely more news sources than actual races to observe. But, with all these tools and outlets at your disposal, it's easier than ever to stay informed as the races heat up, and enjoy politics for what it really is: a high-stakes spectator sport.