Preparing to make your choice

As with all presidential elections, this year's campaigns have become a battleground of positions and claims. By now, you probably want to know how you can impartially research your choices.

There are ways to do that.

Ballotpedia describes itself as the online encyclopedia of American politics and elections. It was founded in 2007 and is sponsored by the Lucy Burns Institute, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization in Middleton, Wis. Its goal is to inform people about politics by providing accurate and objective information about politics at all levels of government. According to its website at ballotpedia.org, it covers local, state and federal politics and is firmly committed to neutrality. Their content includes accurate, verifiable, neutral info on government officials and the offices they hold.

Vote Smart, formerly called Project Vote Smart, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that collects and distributes information on candidates for public office. It was founded in 1992 and has tools on its VoteSmart.org website to help you "find your political soulmate" and prepare yourself for big elections like the one coming up Nov. 8.

According to its website, Vote Smart's mission is to keep voters abreast with the latest political facts. In the group's latest newsletter it announced that they must begin charging non-members a nominal $5 annually to access their massive bank of information at VoteSmart.org during the 2016 elections.

Got a son or daughter who will be voting on Nov. 8 for the first time? Voter registration starts at 17 years old, and he or she can vote when they turn 18.

Remember Rock the Vote, which was founded in 1990 by former Virgin Records executive Jeff Ayeroff? The group is still around and still finding ways to get young people involved in the political process, get them signed up to vote and making sure they know the issues. Many of you remember it as linked to MTV. According to its website, Rock the Vote has enjoyed a long relationship with MTV and other media partners, but it "always has been an independent nonpartisan organization."

They don't care what party or candidate you support. Their goal is for young people to vote and to participate in the process. Where do you vote? What kind of ID do you need? How does the machine work? If you have never voted before and have basic questions on what to expect when you get to the voting booth, RockTheVote.com will get you clued in.