When it comes to voting, I haven’t exactly been a model student. I’ve mostly voted in presidential elections, I’ve gone to only one primary (this year) and one caucus in my life, and I’ve historically not done my research about who to vote for in elections such as for school board, judge, commissioner, etc.
I know many of you must have had this experience. You go to the polls, you get your ballot. The first question is easy — the one where you vote for president. You’ve made your mind up about that months, or even years ago. Congressional and Senate candidates, you probably have a good idea — and if not, if you’re like me, you just vote down your party line.
Then it gets a little more tricky. Many times I’ve experienced not knowing what the different offices actually do, much less who would do the best job. I get there, and I have no idea what judge to vote for, what school board member to vote for, who to vote for the various county executives. I’ve tried out various tactics: just voting for the incumbents, only voting for women, just skipping all those questions altogether, etc. I realize this is not the best way to go.
This year, I feel like I know a little bit more about some of the people that are running for these smaller offices. Because I’ve been doing education reporting in the last year, I know some of the issues that are at stake, and have an idea of some of the candidates. In the coming month, you’ll see more from TC Daily Planet about information about some of those elections and other elections as well, although there are sure to be some that we miss.
In recent weeks, I’ve gotten into several arguments with family members and friends about what to do about the elections where you don’t know the candidates. Some of the people I know practice some of the very same tactics that I have tried: just voting for the incumbent, not voting for those questions at all, and other more random methods like based on who has the best last name. Surely, this is not what our founding fathers envisioned.
My argument now, as a reformed lazy voter, is simply a plea to do just a little bit of research. At least find out who is going to be on the ballot. Go to the Secretary of State’s website, where many of the candidates have links to their websites, and where you can find out more about the amendments, so that you can make an informed decision about them. Read the election information provided by different local news sources.
It actually does matter who is making decisions for our schools districts, our parks, our courts, and all the different entities that make our local system work. If you don’t take the time to make an informed decision, who will?