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May Common Ground E-Newsletter

30 May 2013

A Volunteer Experience Like No Other

Summer is here, and while we have interns arriving each week, we could sure use help from those Vote Smart members who are looking to pair a vacation with good works. Whether you have watched our introduction video or visited us in the past, you should know that our research headquarters are uniquely nestled in the high peaks, lakes and streams of the Continental Divide, at the Great Divide Ranch in southwestern Montana.

We are in particular need of member volunteers who:

  • Are familiar with the web

  • Do not mind data checking (the work can be monotonous, but always crucial)

  • Are available during our toughest months (August and September), when the workload is heavy and most of our student interns must return to school

  • Are willing to help with in-house mailings

  • Can help with basic maintenance; fencing, painting, cleaning, mowing, etc.

So if this sounds like something that would interest you or someone you know, please email us at, or give us a call on 406-859-8683. If you're unable to come out and volunteer, but would still like to help, please consider donating and become a member. We appreciate all the help we can get.

We hope to see you this year!

A New Experience at is going through a few changes – don't worry, the look and feel of the site will remain the same but hopefully your experience will improve. As you have probably already noticed, selecting an issue on our site brings up a range of relevant information about that topic. Search for Guns, and you'll find recent bills on gun rights, interest group ratings from the NRA and Brady Campaign, public statements on firearms, and more. We are working hard to go back and categorize all of our data so each issue has a comprehensive overview containing information from our broad database.

Key Votes has been hard at work re-categorizing and re-formatting old Congressional bills, and we'll be getting through the states as more interns join us this summer. One of the best parts of this task has been the crash-course refresher of major issues from the past 15 years. Here are some of my favorite policies and issues I have rediscovered:

Y2K - Remember Y2K? In 1998, it was called the “Year 2000 Problem” and was given top precedence in the national defense budget. The FY 1999 budget included over $1 billion dollars to convert computers and set aside reserve funds to prepare for the worst – just in case. It's hard to remember just how terrifying the idea was of a global computer shut-down, especially when preparations became a national joke in the wake of... nothing.

Impeachment - Before 1998, only one president, Andrew Johnson, had been impeached. The resolution for impeachment of President Clinton went through 7 vote stages, alternating between failure and passage on a range of issues including perjury, obstruction of justice, and abuse of power. In the end, charges of impeachment were brought though lacking the 2/3 majority to remove him from office.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell - It's been an interesting experience reading about the passage of a bill that was recently repealed. The voting record shows the broad base of cross-party support for this bill, passed in 1994, and 1/3 of the Senate supporting the outright ban on gay service members. There were also a number of bills going back through the 90's creating an immediate discharge for members of the military who contracted HIV/AIDS.

Just as we are going back through our data, you can as well if you're feeling nostalgic. We have Congressional key votes selected and summarized going back to 1992 for you to peruse and reminisce. We'll also have our interns hard at work this summer working on older state bills to guarantee a full and compete picture as we move forward with our new system.

Softball Season!

This week, Vote Smart staff and interns opened up the slow-pitch softball season with a win in our weekly league! Each Monday evening, our team heads to nearby Anaconda, MT to take on other local teams in some friendly competition on the softball field. It is a great opportunity for new interns and volunteers to see the surrounding area and have some outdoor fun while they're at it. This week Research Associate Nick and new intern Jeff highlighted the game by both knocking home-runs for the win.

Be sure to check out our Facebook page Tuesdays to see how the team is doing.

Volunteer Interview: Steve and Judy

This Friday, two of our volunteers completed their Member Internships on the Great Divide Ranch in Philipsburg, MT. Active members of all ages have the unique opportunity to spend two weeks in the beautiful Continental Divide working alongside fellow members and interns supporting the same mission. On the ranch, volunteers spend their time on a number of research and office tasks in order to keep the organization running smoothly and to make a serious contribution to Vote Smart's efforts of providing accurate, unbiased information to voters.

Steve Schuck has been a member of Project Vote Smart for roughly 15 years. After retiring, Steve found this to be an excellent opportunity to volunteer his time to Project Vote Smart. He has returned to the ranch every year since his first volunteer experience, making this his 11th member internship. After Judy Mullenix moved from Cincinnati, OH to Bellingham, WA in 2006, she met Steve and was introduced to Project Vote Smart. In 2008 she first visited the ranch, and has volunteered every year since.

Over the past two weeks, Steve has spent most of his time checking leadership rosters and verifying membership rosters for State Legislatures across the country. He also checked our speeches database to make sure all of our links are accurate. Judy has spent her time working in the Development and Communications Department, assisting with membership information checks and administrative task. In previous member internships, Steve has worked in the Research Department gathering data on legislators.

As seasoned volunteers on the ranch, it is safe to say both Steve and Judy enjoy helping Project Vote Smart when they can and fully support its core mission. "[Project Vote Smart] is the only source of unbiased truth and facts that is available in the political realm," Steve says. While Judy feels more discouraged when she follows politics, she feels that Project Vote Smart's work gives her hope. "Richard [Kimball, PVS President] is one of the few people left that inspires me," she said. When asked if he plans to return to the ranch in the future, Steve emphatically said, "Oh yeah."

Click here to learn more about the Member Internship Program at Project Vote Smart.

Related tags: blog, e-newsletter, key-votes, Montana, volunteers,

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