Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Educate Yourself - Vote Smart

So up comes November in a leap year and there you are in the voting booth. You've been watching the debates, keeping up with the news, you may have even kept an eye on the legislators from your district to see if their votes resemble what yours would have been. Good for you! You're an educated voter.

Or are you?

Let's see...
President - check. Everybody's pretty well informed on this race.
US Senate - check. Maybe you're not quite as in tune with this one as the Presidential election, but you know who your Senators are.
US House - check? Who's your Representative in the US House? Do you know how they've voted for the last 2 years?
Governor - Umm... yeah, check.

But how many times have you gotten past these "headliners" and found yourself asking "Who are these people?" Or, "Commissioner of Agriculture? What's he do?" County commissioners, city council members, judges, commissioners, the list is dizzying.

And yet, these elections are as important to your day-to-day life as any of the big ones. Because it's these people who will impact you and those around you the most directly every single day. But these "opening acts" in the election circus are more often than not won on simple name recognition. The candidate with the most yard signs in place wins. And that's a little scary, because this is the foot of the ladder of power in this country. This is where the next John McCain or Barack Obama will come from.

The good news is that you don't have to toss a coin. You can almost certainly obtain a sample ballot for the next election with all of the races and all of the candidates. And once you know who's running for what, you can research the candidates for all of the offices.

If you're one of my neighbors here in North Carolina, I've already done the first step for you. (If you live in one of the other 49 states, you're on your own.) The NC State Board of Elections has a complete sample ballot for the 2008 General Election in PDF format available on the web here. There's a sample ballot for each Congressional District, so you'll need to know which district is yours. (Psst. Its on your voter registration card.) If you don't know which district you're in and can't find your voter registration card, you can find that information on the SBOE site too.

And now that you know who's running for what, there's a good starting point for researching the candidates available from PBS affiliate WUNC-TV's website. This isn't a comprehensive site detailing the careers of all the candidates, but it's a good introduction to all of them. What I like about this site is that there's no opponent bashing allowed. The candidates are allowed a brief statement about why they feel they're the best qualified applicant. And you can learn a lot about where a candidate stands just from these. With this limited space, they're forced to distill all the rhetoric into a simple statement about what's important to them. What tidbits were important enough to make the cut? Whose names are they dropping? Once you have this information in hand, you can figure out if the record matches the rhetoric.

There are still a few weeks left to figure it all out. But take the time. This may very well be the most important election of my generation's lifetime. And by extension, that makes it important to the next generation. And at the risk of sounding alarmist, it may actually determine if there's a generation after that one.

This is important stuff people. So educate yourself. Vote Smart.
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Daryl said...

Excellent post ... excellent ...

Get educated people!!!!!!!!!!!


Cravey said...

And thanks for the reminder. I was very lost at the last election when I didn't know just who the treasure of watchmacallits was. I confessed on my blog to voting purely by name - I am not proud of this.

I did go look at my sample ballot just in case I was missing anyone. Good news! I'm much better informed this time around!

Also, I am very happy that I can vote EARLY instead of waiting til THE DAY. I hate all the lines, signs and people that think handing me a pamphlet 12 seconds before I cast my vote is somehow going to magically sway me to vote for their candidate. My local polling place will see me on October 23rd! yay!


Mimi Lenox said...

Very informative. Great post!

tiff said...

Thank you!

sheila said...

So true! I am an educated voter. I don't believe a thing I hear unless I investigate it and check it out. Some of the crap coming up in this election makes me crazy. The lies out of the McLame campaign stun me, as well as the potential for throwing this country back 50 years racially.

Sorry if you are a republican, I don't mean to offend you or anyone. I can't tell if what party you are for. I, myself am an independent. I've voted both ways in the past...I tend to vote on issues and plans. I even voted Perot once! lol.

Anyhow, I'm voting for Obama. And I'm proud to say that. I cannot for the life of me fathom how people think Sarah is qualified for anything. And the fact that she's still 'not allowed' to speak to the public is appauling.

Again, sorry, no offensive intended to anyone personally. Ok, gotta go. Nice to see your post, whichever side, you are's everyone's duty to stay up to date on the truth.

Mojo said...

Funny... I voted for Perot myself back in the day.

I deliberately made this as non-partisan as I knew how simply because what Sheila says is the plain truth. No matter which side of the fence you're on, you need to be informed about the candidates, their ideals and what policies they may affect (or effect if they're highly enough placed) and how they'll affect those policies.

For the record, I think most people who've known me for more than 5 minutes know I'll be voting mostly blue in this election -- certainly the Presidential one -- but policies and issues are far more important than party politics. And that was the reason for putting this post out here to begin with.

It's your vote, it matters. Use it wisely.