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Every election season, politicians have a lot to say about their records, each other and policy issues impacting the state.

But are they always telling the truth?

This year, Minnesota Public Radio News and the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance and the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs introduce PoliGraph, a fact-checking feature that gets behind the spin in Minnesota politics. PoliGraph tells you who's sticking to the facts and who's not.

Why PoliGraph?

Many news stories feature one politician making a statement and another disagreeing. Oftentimes, unfortunately, reporters don't have time to verify what the candidates are saying. That leaves voters to decide who's right and who's wrong.

Through the election season, PoliGraph will do the truth-seeking. Expect to see everyone --- Democrats, Republicans and Independents --- put to the PoliGraph test.

Here's how it works:

Each week, PoliGraph takes an in-depth look at political claims made by members of all three parties and checks them against neutral sources for accuracy. Our reporting adheres to the tenets of the best journalism: thorough reporting, research from primary sources, interviews with subject experts and independent, non-partisan analysis.

PoliGraph puts the findings into short, clear explanations accompanied with a rating -- accurate, false or inconclusive.

- Accurate: These claims are true. They include all the important details and are supported by the facts.

- Inconclusive: This rating typically applies to projections or estimates. While such claims could be true under certain circumstances, more information is needed.

- Misleading: This rating will be applied to statements that leave out key information, are exaggerated, or have been taken out of context.

- False: These claims are not true. They are misleading and leave out key details.

- True/False: Unlike inconclusive claims, which have been taken out of context or fall into a grey area, this rating applies to two-part statements: one part of the claim is clearly true, and the other part is clearly false.

If this reminds you of PolitiFact.com, the Pultizer Prize-winning from the St. Petersburg Times, you'd be right. We know good ideas when we see them.

Who Works on PoliGraph?

PoliGraph is a joint project of Minnesota Public Radio News and the Humphrey School's Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, an organization dedicated to developing practical, independent, and non-partisan solutions to pressing political and policy challenges.

Catharine Richert is PoliGraph's lead reporter. Catharine is a student at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, where she will be earning her Masters in Public Policy in May, 2011. Previously, Catharine sniffed out the truth for PolitiFact, where she helped unravel the mysteries of the health care debate, debunked claims about the costs of cap-and-trade, and sorted out the nuances of congressional procedure for her readers. Catharine also covered agricultural policy and the U.S. Senate leadership for Congressional Quarterly. In 2008, she was named Agricultural Journalist of the Year by the North American Agricultural Journalists. She is also the recipient of National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting fellowship and Milena Jesensk√° North American Reporters fellowship. Catharine has a bachelors of arts from Oberlin College.

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