Free Resources for an Informed Electorate | Reference eReviews, July 1, 2016

DEMOCRACY IS in many ways dependent upon an educated electorate. This election season, libraries are in a perfect position to help their communities head to the polls with the knowledge they need to make an informed choice. The country is already knee-deep in one of the most contentious political seasons in recent memory, and chances are that library users are hungry for information on a wide variety of political subjects.

Whether they’re looking for basics on voter registration and deadlines, interested in researching nonpartisan facts, or curious about the finer details of campaign contributions, patrons will find an abundance of helpful information here. The following sites are all free and web-based. They are all relatively easy to navigate, are updated frequently, and offer credible information. For librarians staffing reference desks from now until November, this list is ideal for keeping on hand and at the ready.



Calling itself the “Encyclopedia of American Politics,” this is a one-stop resource to find a wide variety of campaign and political information at the local level. It includes over 230,000 entries written and curated by a professional staff of writers, editors, and researchers—all of whom strive for neutrality and a nonpartisan perspective. In addition to summary information, it is excellent for locating primary sources. For dedicated political junkies, there’s a free weekly e-newsletter, The Tap, which compiles all of the latest political news and updates.

C-SPAN Video Library


An essential resource during election season and throughout the year, the C-SPAN Video Library offers more than 223,000 hours of video (just about everything that has ever aired on C-SPAN) and is updated on a daily basis. Historical content includes debates, speeches, rallies, and more. Users also have the ability to create custom video clips and share them with others.

Can I Vote


Created and maintained by the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), Can I Vote helps people find information about U.S. elections in all 50 states, such as registration deadlines and guidelines regarding absentee voting. Visitors can easily find their designated polling locations and advice on what to bring with them when they vote.

Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD)


The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is a nonpartisan corporation that sponsors and organizes debates for U.S. presidential and vice presidential candidates. Users can access brief histories of debates dating back to 1858 along with transcripts of select events. The site links to C-SPAN’s video library for footage of recent debates.



NewsNow is a British-based service that aggregates articles about national elections and related subjects. The site links to over 40,000 news outlets from around the world and is updated every few minutes. Users may also be interested in ­RealClearPolitics ( a daily roundup of poll results from ­multiple polling sources.



OpenSecrets, a product of the nonpartisan research group Center for Responsive Politics, allows for searching and finding campaign contributors along with campaign finance data, reports, articles, and more. Background information on lobbying, interest groups, and political action committees (PACs) is easy to find. Some of the underlying data on Open­Secrets comes from the Federal Election Commission, which contains downloadable data and primary documents.

Political TV Ad Archive


Launched in early 2016 by the founders of the Internet Archive, the Political TV Ad Archive allows for browsing and viewing TV advertisements by specific candidates. Included are video ads only available via social media, along with downloadable data sets. A resources section links to several respected fact-checking organizations.



While many patrons might be familiar with Twitter and that users can post and even delete tweets, Politwoops displays tweets that have been published and since deleted by local and national U.S. politicians and presidential candidates. A product of the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, Politwoops follows ­members of the House and Senate from both political parties.

U.S. Election Assistance Commission


With helpful products for voters such as election calendars and voter registration forms, the Election Assistance Commission also features access to surveys and studies about U.S. elections along with the National Voter Registration Act. The U.S. Census Bureau ( compiled a related report: The Diversifying Electorate—Voting Rates by Race and Hispanic Origin in 2012, available on the Census website.



This one-stop resource provides factual and unbiased information on elections as well as local and national U.S. candidates and elected officials. Serving researchers for more than 20 years, the site provides data such as publications and speeches specifically designed for K–12 educators. A mobile ­version of the site is available.

Gary Price is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington, DC, metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for ten years. Currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land, Price can be reached at

This article was published in Library Journal's July 1, 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.