Voter's Frequently Asked Questions
- How important are party primaries in electing members of Congress and state legislators?
- What races are covered by iVoterGuide?
- Why do voters need something like iVoterGuide?
- How is iVoterGuide different from other voter guides?
- How comprehensive is iVoterGuide’s research of candidates?
- Where do you get the data from?
- How carefully are candidates evaluated to determine their likely philosophy?
- What response rate do you get from candidates on the issue survey?
Every 10 years when the census is taken, state legislatures reapportion the districts of the US House of Representatives. In almost every state, the political party which controls the state legislature will gerrymander legislative districts for the U.S. House, state Senate and the State House to maximize the number of seats the majority party will control. This results in almost every seat being specifically drawn to be represented by a Democrat or Republican. As a result, the legislator who ends up representing the district is actually determined in the primary of the party for which that district was drawn. Therefore, the November general election is almost inconsequential as far as electing legislators is concerned. The turnout for political party primaries typically ranges from 10 – 15%, which means that often 5% is a majority.
Because so few voters care enough or know enough to vote in party primaries, the opportunity to succeed or the peril fail is significant. Members of Congress can be elected with as few as 25,000 votes out of 500,000 registered voters. State legislators can be elected with as few as 5,000 votes out of 100,000 voters.
We cover the federal races in all 50 states, providing both comprehensive candidate research as well as panel evaluations for all contested races in the Republican primaries and general elections.
We cover the statewide and state legislative races in states with a current state partner, including any statewide judicial races. States with state partners for the 2015-2016 cycle currently are FL, IL, IN, KY, OH, PA, TX, WA, and WI. Each race we cover includes all the information listed above.
We do not cover uncontested races. In the general election, the race is not covered unless both a Democratic and a Republican candidate are entered. Information not found by the time of the panel evaluation, which occurs shortly before early voting in each state, will not be included.
Most people don’t vote in the primary because “They don’t know who to vote for”. It is so hard to know where the candidate stands when all you see are ads on TV or in print. It would take so much time to dig into their record, with no one source having all the information. iVoterGuide goes to hundreds of sources, gathers all that information, and puts it in one place, giving voters comprehensive information presented in a simple and clear format.
iVoterGuide is unique in many ways. Most voter guides are printed and cover all the races in the state or county, requiring you to know which district is yours, but iVoteGuide is online and customized to only show you the races that appear on your ballot.
Other voter guides might offer you just a candidate survey or records of a legislator’s votes on key issues, but iVoterGuide is comprehensive and provides all that and more, including campaign finance records, endorsements, and panel evaluations. We provide the depth of data, but also an quick and easy evaluation of the candidate (from very conservative to very liberal).
One original idea included in iVoterGuide is that we link together the voting records of legislators with candidates who have either given money to, or received money from that legislator. We average those voting records to give you a ‘virtual’ voting record for that candidate who has never held office.
Our researchers compile information from the following areas.
- Legislative Vote Ratings – we go to over 300 organizations, both liberal and conservative, who evaluate legislators and enter ratings for every legislator. We use both nation-wide organizations as well as state organizations to gather ratings of both federal and state candidates.
- Campaign finance data for all federal candidates – millions of records from the FEC are processed to identify any donations given or received by federal candidates.
- Virtual Vote Ratings (vote ratings credited to legislators who have received or given donations to a candidate are attributed to the candidate)
- Endorsements from about 300 organizations, both liberal and conservative, as well as those reported by the candidate
- Candidate issue survey – a carefully chosen list of questions is sent to every candidate, and we follow up to make sure we are reaching the candidate and encouraging them to complete the survey. There are separate survey’s based on the type of office: federal, legislative, judicial, state education. We ask each candidate questions in categories like: self-defense, marriage, life, education, religious liberty, immigration, Obamacare, Israel, and a statement of faith. Unlike the candidate debates, each candidate has the opportunity to answer every question.
In the 2014 primaries, we researched 1,971 candidates and were able to gather at least one piece of data on 67% of the candidates. We consider a ‘piece of data’ to be one endorsement, one scorecard, a complete survey, one contribution received, or one contribution given.
For State candidates we get an amazing number with at least one item of data. It ranges from 41% to 100% with an average of 80%!
We evaluated 1007 state level candidates and had data on 80% of them. We had data on 54% of the 964 federal candidates.
Campaign finance data is downloaded from the Federal Election Commission. State campaign finance typically comes from the Secretary of state’s office in each state. We go directly to over 150 organizations to collect and enter their Voting Records for each candidate. Endorsements are found by scouring over 800 endorsing organizations to see who they have evaluated. We contact each candidate asking them to complete our candidate survey, reminding them multiple times and then allow them to review all their information before it is made public. Each candidate is asked to include their endorsements and biographical data.
We carefully vet local volunteers (if available) to make sure they align with our values. They complete their own issue survey and we DO call their references. They usually work for one of our partners, or we find them through a partner. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in volunteering. Only about 20% who volunteer go on through the vetting process to actually serve.
These panelists are grouped into panels of 3-5 individuals who will each evaluate the same 20-40 candidates. They are trained in how to dive deep into all the information we provide (see #6 above) as well as using their local knowledge (we seek panelists in the states of the candidates), searching their websites, etc. After each panelist has determined their individual rating, they gather together to review the same candidates and reach a consensus evaluation of what kind of voting record the candidate, if elected, would likely receive from a multi-issue organization that scores on economic and social issues. Panelists put each candidate into one of these categories, according to their confidence in the candidate’s future voting record:
- Very Conservative – At least 95% confident the candidate will vote conservatively
- Conservative – 85-94% confident the candidate will vote conservatively
- Somewhat Conservative – 70-84% confident the candidate will vote conservatively
- Moderate – Less than 70% confident the candidate will vote either conservatively or liberally. Candidates fall into this category if there is not convincing evidence to classify them as either conservative or liberal
- Somewhat Liberal – 70-84% confident the candidate will vote liberally
- Liberal – 85-94% confident the candidate will vote liberally
- Very Liberal – At least 95% confident the candidate will vote liberally
- I’ve heard that candidates no longer answer survey’s. What response rate do you get from candidates on the issue survey?
We get more Republicans than Democrats to complete the survey, so the primary gives us a better representation. We also get more responses from down ballot races, so since we currently only go down to state legislative races, we get the highest response rate from state candidates, then federal, with presidential being the lowest.
Average response rate for federal candidates is about a third and state candidates is about half. We recently closed our survey to TX and OH candidates for their March 2016 primaries and had approximately 60% response rate! And that’s just one data point out of five.
In 2014. the percentage for federal candidates’ ranges from 0% to 70% with the average being 31%.
In 2014, survey response rates for State candidates range from 30% to 81%, with an average of 48%.