It seems like the clarion call to “go out and vote” is shriller than ever this year. But the fact remains that merely showing up to the polls and casting a ballot on election day (which, in truth, is becoming intentionally harder for non-rich, non-white voters across the U.S.) is not enough: the power of voting comes from being an informed voter. Using a combination of non-partisan voting guides and a critical eye to campaign propaganda can help make the best of this and every election.
In the years since Citizens United and the SpeechNOW.org v. the FEC decisions, massive amounts of money have been pumped into the U.S. political process in order to sway voters. Needless to say, the difficulty in sifting factual information from word plays, misinformation, and outright lies has grown with the cash flow. The average voter usually doesn’t have the time to evaluate every bill, measure, and proposition, or heavily scrutinize all candidates and their donors. Even for someone like me with a legal background, getting myself up to speed on each election’s offerings is a long, tedious task. Just for this 2018 midterm election, my family and I have spent countless hours researching and debating the ballot items and candidates, only to feel as confused as when we started.
Not surprisingly, most people rely on TV ads and mailings from “non-affiliated” PACs, and endorsements from names they trust. While I do take these into account, (I pay particular attention to those who regularly promote candidates and laws that undermine my health and safety), I always start with the official voter guides from my Secretary of State and the county office for voters. I also use the non-partisan VOTE411 voter guide.
Official Voter Guides
I’m fortunate to live in a state that mails official voter guides to all registered voters from both the state and county levels. These guides include summaries of what’s on the ballot and an impartial analysis of their fiscal impact. These guides also have candidate statements, key dates, and early voting locations, among other information. Each state approaches (or in many cases retreats from) the idea of fair, accessible, and equitable voting differently, so not every Office of the Secretary of State (or Commonwealth, or comparable entity) has a voter guide readily available. Check with your elections-related governing body to see if they have one.
VOTE411 Voter Guide
Since voter suppression is a real and growing threat, finding reliable information, even from official sources, can be hard and time-consuming. Fortunately, organizations like theLeague of Women Voters and VOTE411.org have taken the time to gather this information into non-partisan voting guides. As they explain on their website, VOTE411.org is a “one-stop-shop” for election related information by the League of Women Voters Education Fund. It provides nonpartisan information to the public with both general and state-specific information on various aspects of the election process, including:
- Ballot measure information
- Factual data on candidates in various federal, state and local races
- ID requirements
- Polling place locations
- …and much more
By entering your address, you can find your polling place, build your ballot with their online voters’ guide and much more.
Visit VOTE411 to learn more.
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