As a Republican former Member of Congress and member of Republicans for Integrity, I have been through many political campaigns, and I believe most Americans of all political views would agree that campaign rhetoric gets lower and lower every day.

Now, as election ads dominate the airwaves, unbiased, factual information about our elected officials and challengers can be hard to find – buried under one crisis after another and the partisan attacks that follow.

A voter’s first source of information on candidates for public office should be local newspapers, whose reporters and editors are part of the community.

And voters who want to further explore the candidates and issues have another nonpartisan, unbiased resource: VoteSmart.org.

Vote Smart collects the facts. It never takes a stance on partisan issues or accepts funding from special interests, and it requires a bipartisan board.

In effect, Vote Smart forces candidates to fill out “employment applications” for the jobs they are asking voters to elect them to perform.

When searching for a politician at VoteSmart.org, here is the information that comes up for every candidate:

Every statement the candidate has made, in keyword-searchable databases.

Every key vote the candidate has cast (if the candidate is an incumbent), listed by subject with easy-to-understand descriptions of how that vote affected his or her constituents.

How special interest groups evaluate each candidate.

The candidate’s positions on each major issue.

The candidate’s major financial backers.

The candidate’s biographical background in detail.

Before hiring anyone for any position, an employer would ask questions, just as every voter should ask the candidates that we may choose to employ — as our REPRESENTATIVE.

They are chosen to “represent” us.

They are not elected to “represent” the party, nor are they elected to represent the president, nor are they elected to represent only those who voted for them...but they are elected to represent what is “in the best interest of all of their constituents, our nation and our world!”

So, this year, instead of collapsing under the onslaught of vicious campaign ads, social media memes and cable news “talking heads,” take action! Explore Vote Smart’s resources and learn who and what the candidates are all about.

I understand that you are busy and may not have time. You may be juggling childcare and a job, hoping not to be evicted, searching for work, caring for a sick family member — or all of the above.

But this election is the single most important election of our lifetime. Why?

We are dealing with a president intent on dividing our nation and creating crises for the sake of distracting people from the real issues.

Blame, lies and hatred divide us. What happened to “we’re all in this together?”

How many more crises do we need before we understand that “united we stand, divided we fall?”

I, along with many other Republicans this year, am voting for “the person...not the party.” As examples of this important principle, look at Republican former Representatives Bob Inglis and Ray LaHood, as well as Senator Gordon Humphrey and nearly 30 other Republicans who served in the United States House and Senate.

We are loyal to our nation, to truth, to inclusiveness, to cooperation, to solving urgent problems together, and we’re committed to integrity.

That is why we rely on the collection of facts that VoteSmart.org provides. It is free and easy to use. All it takes is the click of a mouse and the touch of a thumb! Vote Smart even offers a research hotline at 1-888-VOTE-SMART!

Get informed, vote early, and vote smart! Our future depends on each and every vote!

Rod Chandler is a Republican former United States Congressman who served from 1983 to 1993. He is a member of Republicans for Integrity, which brings together Republican former Members of Congress who place people before partisan politics.

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