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Election fact or fiction? Find out for yourself

When it comes to U.S. Presidential election coverage, sometimes it's tough for us average Joe constituents to keep track of who is putting lipstick on which animal and all the other important facts we need in order to make an informed choice on e...

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When it comes to U.S. Presidential election coverage, sometimes it's tough for us average Joe constituents to keep track of who is putting lipstick on which animal and all the other important facts we need in order to make an informed choice on election day.

Time being scarce and all, it's too bad lipstick remarks and the number of homes owned by candidates are topics which hound us at every turn. Somehow, those issues don't seem quite as important as those that actually affect Americans, like which candidate will lower taxes, why, and by how much.

Of course, advertisements about taxes aren't exactly reliable either and one can only hope that the majority of Americans realize this. It seems unlikely, however, that political parties will wake up and change their ways anytime soon.

So, where does a curious voter go to learn the facts and separate them from fiction in a world filled with bogus sound bites?

It will take a little work, but fortunately, there are places voters can turn to find out where the candidates truly stand on issues from energy to taxes to health care.

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Visit the Web site www.votesmart.org , where their slogan is "The voter's self-defense system." Their mission is to "battle to protect all of us from the selfish interests that strip us of the most crucial component in our struggle to self-govern - access to abundant, accurate and relevant information."

People can find out who is running for office in their area, voting records, biographical information and issue positions, among other information. They've even created a handbook, the 2008 Voter's Self Defense Manual, that voters can order. Best of all, it's free when you order one copy.

Another site worth checking is www.factcheck.org . They purport to be "Just the Facts," and seem to diligently research ads and claims made by the candidates. They pick apart the statistics and claims lobbed on a daily basis and also provide documentation of their research methods, so one can know how they arrive at their conclusions.

One more is www.procon.org , which strives to be an educational tool on controversial issues. The non-profit, non-government-affiliated group does not express opinions and they believe most people care about their community, their state and their country, have common sense and good judgment, and can make better decisions if the large volume of data and rhetoric on an issue is reduced to a fairly and reasonably crafted pro-con presentation.

It should be pointed out, of course, that these sources are not 100 percent accurate at all times (there was a correction attached to an article run on factcheck.org Wednesday, for example) and no one information source should be anyone's sole method of learning about the issues.

These sources can at least provide a way for voters to be proactive in learning about issues, instead of letting political spin-doctors spoon-feed us whatever they feel we need to know. Maybe then we could keep the lipstick off of the poor, unsuspecting animals altogether.

Lisa Baumann

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