Part of the reason that elections can be such a turn-off is that it seems like more and more, they are becoming about images and poll numbers instead of issues and solutions. With TV, radio, and internet ads bombarding us, it can be hard to find out if candidates’ campaigns have any substance and what their true motivation is for running. But it can be done, and is important to do. Here’s how you can become an informed voter:
- First, it’s important to know where you stand on the issues so you can vote for someone who shares your values. Think about community or national problems that you want government to deal with. For example, what do you think the minimum wage should be? Do you think new mothers should be able to stay home with a newborn without worrying about losing her job? Think about what’s impacted your life that could be addressed by elected officials.
- Just about every candidate has a website that you can find by searching their name on Google. They also probably have a campaign Facebook page. Both are good sources to find out lots of things, like their background, when they are holding community events (which you should go to if you can!), who else supports them, endorsements they’ve received, and what issues they want to address.
- If a candidate or campaign volunteer knocks on your door or calls you, talk with them and ask them tough questions! They reached out to you because they need your vote, so make sure they can give you real, substantial answers to your questions.
- Seek the opinions of others in your community who are politically active and aware. Ask people you trust which candidate they support and why.
- Learn about endorsements. Endorsements are a “seal of approval” from people, organizations, and interest groups, and they provide a sense of where the candidate stands on certain issues. For example, a candidate endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters (an environmental organization) will be supportive of legislation protecting the environment. A candidate endorsed by the National Rifle Association could reasonably be assumed to oppose gun control laws. Find a list of endorsements from candidates’ websites, and learn about what these groups stand for and why they endorsed who they did.
Remember, your vote is valuable (if it weren’t, there wouldn’t be so many TV ads begging you to choose this or that candidate!). Treat your vote right and make sure you’re giving it to someone who deserves it.
Do you have other questions about elections or voting? Check out our 2016 Elections: Everything You Need to Know page!