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Friday, June 21, 2024

A patriotically painted bus transformed into a teaching vessel for voters educated passersby Monday about a political education project.

Project Vote Smart parked its mobile classroom outside the Tower Road Branch Library during its first nationwide tour.

Milagros Ruiz, 40, learned about the project for the first time after bumping into a project representative.

"This is great, because its goal is to educate voters, and there is nothing worse than a blind voter," said Ruiz, a Gainesville teacher.

Jan Gaines stopped at the Project Vote Smart bus while on her way into the library.

"The 2008 presidential election is very important and informed voters are the key," Gaines said. "This project will help get voters information easily."

Jon Arnold, national bus tour coordinator for the project, wearing the project's purple polo shirt, led six people onto the red, white and blue bus and began a presentation inside the mobile classroom, which seats 22 people.

He demonstrated how to use the Project Vote Smart Web site and introduced a 10-minute video.

A patriotic melody began playing in the background of the video, which detailed the history and current functions of the project.

Gainesville is the 18th stop on the tour, which began in Melbourne three weeks ago.

The tour, which was conceptualized in June, is meant to teach voters about the project and provide a means to educate Americans about political candidates and lawmakers, Arnold said.

"Florida has been such an important state in the last few elections," Arnold said. "That is why we started here."

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The project was created after two politicians spent an evening discussing the negative direction of politics and how candidates spent most of their time attacking each other rather than informing voters, Arnold said.

Sixteen years and 6,000 people later, U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater and Project Vote Smart President Richard Kimball's creation has built the country's first voter's self-defense system, Arnold said.

The voter's self-defense system researches, investigates and confirms relevant facts about 40,000 or so U.S. political candidates and lawmakers year-round.

The project provides information like voting records, issue positions, speeches and public statements, said Jeremy Clemens, legislative research director for the project.

The information compiled by the project is uploaded into a public online database, which has received as many as 16 million hits per day, Clemens said.

"Our Web site is the just the objective, un-biased facts, a 'meat and potatoes' kind of place, where a voter can go to find information about candidates and lawmakers," Clemens said.

The project does not accept help from special interest groups, corporations or the government, Arnold said.

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