Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Do This To Let Your INFORMED Voice Be Heard In Our Elections

POLITICS!  Does reading the word make you want to turn and run?

My dear father grew up during the Depression, in very modest circumstances.   He really believed in the need to exercise our rights to vote to influence the course of our nation and he encouraged my sisters and me to do the same.  One of the things he often shared was how he carefully researched every ballot decision before “pulling the lever.”   In the spirit of my father’s passion and belief in the power of one voice, let’s look at a few ways to make the best choice in this season’s elections.

Here are a few things to avoid:

  • Don’t vote for personalities or follow the crowd.  Just because a candidate is popular, doesn’t mean that he or she is the candidate that best supports your views. Candidates sometimes become popular for trite reasons instead of what they’ve done or what they stand for.
  • Don’t avoid voting for the lack of a “good” candidate.  See the rest of my father’s wisdom shared below.
  • Don’t let fear or hate-filled messages make your decision for you.  Go with what your research - from trusted resources - tells you to be true.
  • Don’t let your emotions sweep you away.  If you are feeling so emotional around an issue or a candidate, try to take a step back and bring some research and reason into your decision.
  • Don’t rely on definitions from the opposition.  For example, liberals will try to tell you what conservatives believe and conservatives will try to tell you liberals believe.  People from the “other side” can easily get caught up in looking for reasons to bring down the competition instead of actually looking at all sides of an issue.

Here are some great “Dos” that can help you make a truly informed and well-considered choice:

  • Do take a long-term approach.   Issues like the health of our environment, increasing tax-burdens, and the general health of our nation are complex.  What are we leaving for future generations?  While some ideas may sound good in the short term, what is the projected long-term impact and true cost of such a plan?
  • Do decide the issues that are most important to you.  Most candidates will stand for some things you agree with, and other things that you don’t agree with.  Make a prioritized list of the issues most important to you and then look for candidates that are the best fit with your concerns, values, and beliefs.
  • Do double-check your information.  If you read something from an apparent trusted source that sounds unbelievable, check it out from another reliable source.  A well-educated colleague of mine recently shared a post from a disreputable source that sounded unbelievable.  It turned out to be false and I wonder how much damage was done to upstanding candidates by people accepting the article as true.
  • Do consider the morals and honesty of a candidate.  Character is important!  If this person has often been caught lying on major or minor issues, can he or she really be trusted to lead with integrity?
  • Do look at a candidate’s voting histories.  I will share below three great resources that help you do just that.
  • Do consider candidates that have “walked the walk”, not just “talked the talk”.   Has the candidate actually run a business?  Managed a city or governed a state?  Or do they just give good speeches?  Hard-earned experience helps a leader truly lead.
  • Do ask people you respect why they support whom they support.    Really listen, whether you agree with their choices or not.
  • Do believe that your vote counts and that your voice can make a difference.

Where can you turn to help inform your decisions?  Check out these three great resources:

Project Vote Smart (http://votesmart.org) provides a multitude of information on politicians’ voting records, biography, speeches, positions, ratings and funding. 

BallotPedia (https://ballotpedia.org) has a wealth of information on politics and elections at all levels of government. It’s a great resource for researching presidential candidates.

The League of Women Voters (http://lwv.org) is a great nonpartisan organization that researches and summarizes things for you so you can make a more informed decision before voting. 

This publication from the League of Women Voters is a great tool to help you prepare for the upcoming presidential election:  “How to Judge a Candidate” http://lwv.org/content/how-judge-candidate  

And finally, here is a bit more wisdom from my dear father.  Many years ago, he told me, “Sometimes after all your research and thought, you find you don’t really agree with the stance of any candidate for a position. In that situation, you end up deciding who you most need to vote against in order to best support your stance.” 

We need your informed voice in helping chart the course of our nation! Do your research, think long and hard, and let your voice be heard!