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Look Beyond the Ads for Midterm Voting Advice

PHOTO: Watching the steady stream of political attack ads on TV won't give you the information you need to cast your midterm election ballot. In fact, it might have the opposite effect, turning you off to politics altogether. Photo credit: eelnosiva/iStockphoto.com
PHOTO: Watching the steady stream of political attack ads on TV won't give you the information you need to cast your midterm election ballot. In fact, it might have the opposite effect, turning you off to politics altogether. Photo credit: eelnosiva/iStockphoto.com
October 16, 2014

SEATTLE – This week, Washington voters are receiving their ballots in the mail.

But for weeks, they've been barraged with political ads and campaign phone calls, and the pace will continue up to Election Day.

A New York Times poll says so far in this midterm election, 55 percent of the money spent on TV ads is from groups that don't have to fully disclose their donors.

That doesn't surprise Kim Abel, president of the League of Women Voters of Washington. She says the League supports the DISCLOSE Act, a bill in Congress to require all groups with more than $10,000 of political spending to identify their donors.

"Until we get full disclosure on advertising, and who's behind some of these campaign pieces, you have to do the work, fact-checking and applying critical listening skills,” she stresses. “When you see an ad that's not paid for by a candidate, take that one with a grain of salt."

Different versions of the DISCLOSE Act have been introduced in recent years. There has been no action on the current bill (SB 2516) since July. Both Washington U.S. senators are co-sponsors.

Like any product being advertised, Abel says the idea behind a political ad is to get a person to make a decision based on emotion.

But she says the League is concerned about the intense negativity of the attack ads, and that it may be having negative effects on voters as well.

"One of the things that sometimes happens with all this money being thrown at television ads is, people feel not part of the process,” she says. “Individual voters should still understand, they make the difference. Your vote counts. Individuals' votes matter."

Abel says finding nonpartisan information isn't difficult. The League of Women Voters' Vote411 website, the Secretary of State's voters’ pamphlet and the website VotingForJudges.org are her recommendations.

She adds it's worth the time to attend a forum or debate, to see the candidates in person. There are dozens being held across the state in the next two weeks.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA