October 25, 2008

Voting Smart

If like me, you are starting to look at your ballot beyond the all important Presidential and national elections, you might be wondering how do you decide which of those innumerable lower candidates to vote for in the election for your Community College district or for your Superior Court Judge. And if you live in a state like California, you have to wade through the number of propositions that flood the ballot every election.

So where do you go for good information? Here's some of the ways I make sense of this important act of citizenship.

If you are still undecided on the national front, get thee to Project Vote Smart who can tell you who backs the candidates in your states, who funds them, who endorses them and generally provide you a wealth of information about your candidates and what you might expect if they get elected. This is an organization that was started a number of years ago as a bi-partisan voter resource center that is finally coming in to its own. If you have friends and family who wonder who they should believe, point them to Project Vote Smart because they are truly independent and dedicated to making sure you, the voter, get the information you need to make good decisions.

If you live in states where the League of Women Voters are active, such as California, you can get slew of information about the local elections from their website, Smart Voter.

Entering in my zip code and address, I'm able to get the full ballot for my city and all the candidates running for office here. And I can see the candidate statements and answers to some basic questions about how they see their role in the office for which they are running and how they see the challenges for this role. For example, the candidates running for my local Community College District were asked to respond to the following three questions:

  1. What experience and training would you bring to this office?
  2. What do you see as the role of the Board in labor negotiations?
  3. What are your goals for the college? Are students, faculty and staff currently meeting those goals?

As you can see, you can get quite a bit of information about a candidate from this website.

Nevertheless, it is not enough to look only at what a candidate says about their goals, because sometimes candidates lie. As voters, we have to be careful not to elect "stealth candidates" who promise to improve local schools but who have an agenda to promote anti-science or anti-health (aka: anti-sexual information) agendas. If an agenda is truly worthy of being voted upon, it ought to be based on honest and upfront statements of what truly is their agenda and let the voters decide if that is something they too support. Knowing who supports and funds a candidate can help you make more informed decisions.

The Smart Voter site helps here by providing additional information about who endorsed the candidates and backs the candidates.

The other place I look to for advice on on voting is organizations that support the same goals I support. So I look seriously at the recommendations of the Sierra Club for their analysis of the propositions. When the Sierra Club came out against two of the big propositions on this year's ballot that dealt with clean energy, I listened carefully to their arguments. They are urging their members to vote no on both Proposition 7 (Solar and Clean Energy Act of 2008) and Proposition 10 (Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy Bonds). Why?

Because neither proposition addresses the current challenges adequately and both would lock their flaws into solutions going forward. We can do better.

As Americans, we are especially fortunate to live in the age of Google. We get innundated with campaign fliers and campaign ads. Although you need to be careful about the quality of information on the web, it is much easier to investigate your candidates and the ballot propositions before going to vote. Make sure you do your homework before going to the polls.

And final words: please, please vote. We've been hearing it for a long time, but this truly is the most important election in our lifetimes. Use the resources available to help inform your decisions, but do make sure you vote. Vote like your life depended on it.

Posted by Mary at October 25, 2008 06:48 PM | Elections | Technorati links |
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