Know who and what you are voting for on Nov. 6

October 29, 2018

The Michigan Political Almanac website, organized by Associate Professor Tim Kiska, is a one-stop shop for information about elected officials and candidates.

JASS senior Sarah Martin is an editor for Associate Professor Tim Kiska’s virtual voter resource
JASS senior Sarah Martin is an editor for Associate Professor Tim Kiska’s virtual voter resource
JASS senior Sarah Martin is an editor for Associate Professor Tim Kiska’s virtual voter resource

From the roads you drive to the public K-12 education youth get, politicians are power players. But do you know the name of the person who makes the decisions in your district? And do you know how they voted on bills during their tenure?

Language, Culture and Communication Associate Professor Tim Kiska wants to make sure you do. So he created a resource that people can use for a more informed vote,

“People are smart, but trying to sort this stuff all out is a pain, so we designed the Michigan Political Almanac,” Kiska said. “These folks have enormous pull on our everyday lives, so it’s important to be informed."

He said users can access the basics, like who is seeking your vote. Or go a bit deeper and study who is donating campaign cash and review precinct-by-precinct primary election results. Kiska said it was designed to allow people to choose how far they wanted to go, depending on their interest level.

The site includes searches by state house, state senate and U.S. house. Once you put the district number in the search navigation bar, information comes up about the current elected official, including the challenger. Users also can search for their district by ZIP code.

“This stuff is mostly out there from U.S. Census Bureau and various other sites, but it takes anywhere from five to 10 link clicks to find it. I know; I’ve looked,” Kiska said. “This was created to be a one-stop shop.”

Senior Sarah Martin helped Kiska with the site. Martin, a Journalism and Screen Studies major, said Kiska sought out her assistance after working with him when Kiska served as an election expert at Channel 7 News in the 2016 primaries and at the Detroit Free Press during the 2016 election. Kiska has been professionally involved with election news coverage since 1974.

“Professor Kiska always asks his students if we have interest in getting involved. Through these experiences, I've had the opportunity to grow my skill set and become a more informed voter in the process,” Martin said.

Martin said she enjoys the information gathering side of the field, especially when it comes to data. And she said the website gives people cited data through numbers, charts and maps.

In her Michigan Political Almanac editor role, she collected information about how ballots were cast in each voting district for elections, including primaries, since 2012. Then she presented the findings in a bar chart. She said even that shows how voter behavior has changed in just a short period of time; it’s information that is driven by data.

“Our job as journalists is to objectively present unbiased information to the people,” she said. “That’s what this website does. There’s no spin; it’s data. It’s there for you to take a look at and decide what it means to you.” was made possible through Office of Research and Sponsored Program grants, totaling $10,000. Site team members include Geology Lecturer Claudia Walters, UM-Dearborn graduate student Jacob Yesh-Brochstein and Eric Kiska.

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