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9 Ways to Shed Light on Election Season with Citizen Journalism

Election Day is almost here and the candidates, from local elections all the way up to state-wide races, are making the rounds to win over voters. As citizen journalists, we don’t take sides in elections. Our side is the truth.

So do just that: pursue the truth and hold all candidates accountable. Let’s be frank and admit that all politicians, even the good guys, need a watchful citizenry to keep them in check.

Here are nine ways you can keep ’em honest by reporting on the election as a citizen journalist. Have any other ideas? Send a quick note to info@watchdogwire.com.

Look into early voting rules

Early voting is controversial due to concerns about voter fraud, and voting rights groups are often pushing for expanded early voting.

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You can contact your county clerk and look into early voting hours in your area. Couple that with some research into what your state legislature has done with early voting laws, and you’ve got yourself a story!

Examine court battles over voting

A number of states are involved in court battles over voter ID laws and other election-related rules.

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So far we’ve had coverage on court battles in Ohio and North Carolina. But what about your state? Do some research and let us know! True the Vote is a helpful resource if you choose in look into voter fraud.

Cover a debate

Candidates like to avoid debating, so when they happen to debate its almost always a newsworthy event.

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Here’s an example of how to recap a debate and fairly represent both debaters. This is another example with a more ‘personal’ approach and with more analysis.

Research ballot initiatives

Sometimes states go to the people to ask their input. These ballot initiatives and referendum votes are always interesting, and this election cycle is no different.

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According to the Lucy Burns Institute, “the minimum wage, marijuana, and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are just some of the ballot topics making waves this year.” These are huge issues that voters will decide, and you have a chance to explain the issue so voters are informed. Here is a great breakdown of one ballot question in Nevada.

For more info, check out Ballotpedia. They have great information on ballot initiatives.

Put a spotlight on judicial elections

In many states, certain judges are actually elected officials. Though these races are often ignored, they are pretty important. Judges have a lot of power to change government policy.

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Look into local and state-wide judicial elections. Try to interview the candidates, look into their backgrounds, and scrutinize their records. In many cases these races are “non-partisan,” so you can’t judge the judge candidates by an R or a D next to their names.

Don’t know how judges are chosen in your state? Judgepedia has that helpful info.

Think local

Sure, that U.S. Congress race is pretty interesting. But guess what? Unless you live in one of a handful of districts, the outcome is pretty much already certain thanks to gerrymandering. But on the local level, races can be more competitive.

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Go to a local campaign event, dig deeper than your local paper, interview the candidates, and talk to their supporters.

There are tons of local races, from council to Mayor and everything in between. We recently covered a mayoral election in Ohio. You can do the same in your town.

Use video

Not into writing? That’s fine, because if a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth even more. So take some video on your smartphone or camera!

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We have a helpful tip sheet on shooting video. Haven’t tried using your smartphone to shoot video before? No worries, we also hosted a webinar which you can view by clicking here.

Talk to voters

Do man on the street interviews! Talk to voters and find out what they are thinking. Ask questions at rallies, local events, or even near the polls on election day.

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Here’s our tip sheet on conducting “man on the street” interviews. You can be just like Jesse Watters and quiz voters on the issues.

Be fair and balanced

Whatever race you choose to cover, be fair and balanced. No one likes to read hack journalism.

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Here are three helpful tips to keep your story fair and balanced. And if you have any questions about these tips or election coverage in general, contact us by emailing info@watchdogwire.com.

And for even more election coverage ideas, click here.

All images courtesy of Shutterstock.com except where otherwise noted. 

Josh Kaib

Josh Kaib is the Assistant Editor of Watchdog Wire. Twitter: @joshkaib

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