It's time for me to face it: In national elections, my vote may not be too important.
Researches have verified it. About 15 years ago, researchers determined that the odds of your vote determining a national election ranged somewhere between 1 in 10 million to 1 in 100 million (tinyurl.com/OneVoteD). Ten years later, other researchers found the odds were about 1 in 60 million of your vote making a difference in the presidential election (tinyurl.com/OneVoteB).
What about lists of "what difference one vote makes" that circulate during elections? Snopes.com found that those lists of world events -- Cromwell, Hitler, Kennedy and the annexation of Texas -- aren't true despite often being cited (tinyurl.com/OneVoteC).
So, should you not bother with voting? No! There's more than one race -- city positions, school boards, judges, amendments and referendums, taxes and annexations. Imagine how results in a tight contest could be influenced by a family, a busload of people or a church congregation that decide to vote, especially when the prevailing attitude is apathy.
Scores have died so you can have free elections. Your vote is sacred. Rather than taking it for granted, utilize these election-related resources to prepare.
Know the candidates. If you don't know about the presidential campaigns for Merlin Miller, Tom Stevens or (I kid you not) Rosanne Barr, Politics1.com has a directory with links to of all the presidential, congressional and governor candidates.
Choose the candidates. Voter match services help you determine whose views mirror your own on a range of topics. I find they make me think about issues I have not considered.
At USA Today (tinyurl.com/OneVoteE), vote on issues, you can also view candidates' statements. ABC News (tinyurl.com/OneVoteF) asks you to choose from a series of two statements. 2012election.procon.org is probably the most thorough in number of issues. OntheIssues.org is currently being upgraded to include congressional races. VoteSmart.org analyzes candidates by voting record and a "political courage" test.
Check the facts. Non-partisan fact-checkers like Factcheck.org and Politifact.com do the work of analyzing and researching claims and news coverage. The latter also contains meters for how well the president and GOP have carried out their promises.
Snopes.com , along with sites like TruthorFiction.com, Hoax-Slayer.com and Urbanlegends.about.com are good general fact-checking sites. Search for key words of phrases to quickly find topics you are interested in.
Finally, The Journalist's Toolbox gives a wide variety of politics and election resources (tinyurl.com/OneVoteJ).
Check opinions. A political cartoon can often convey a perspective with few words. Find an array of current cartoons at cagle.com/trends or editorialcartoonists.com. Humor can share a perspective, too, which you can find collected at politicalhumor.about.com. Keep in mind that continually updated humor sites may require a thick skin and could be offensive.
Check your neighbors. Track donations given by an individual or area with fundrace.huffingtonpost.com. Followthemoney.org gives even more in-depth views of how money shapes political races, and Opensecrets.org/orgs allows you to research a particular company.
Even Amazon is getting into politics. Its Election Heat Map (tinyurl.com/OneVoteG) tracks whether people are purchasing "red" or "blue" political titles.
Get social. CNN and Facebook have partnered to create Election Insights (CNN.com/FBInsights) visualizing the elections and what is trending -- though not the sentiment. Election.twitter.com does track sentiment towards the candidates relative to 400 million tweets on all topics daily.
One final resource, promoted by author Max Lucado, is worthy of everyone, regardless of party affiliation: 40 Days of Prayer for the USA (tinyurl.com/OneVoteK). One vote may not always make a difference, but one prayer can always lead to change.
Ken Satterfield is marketing coordinator for Word&Way.