BE AN INFORMED VOTER IN 2020
Stephanie Noblit, Esp., MLS(ASCP)CM, Jessica Lawless, MLS(ASCP)CM
|Photo credit: Tom Arthur|
2020 brought forth numerous challenges. Whether you consider dealing with challenges to be fun and exciting, or nerve racking and stressful, this year has not been dull, to say the least. Additionally, during this tumultuous time, it is also an election year. Social media and the bias of news casting in today’s society makes it more and more difficult to decide on which candidates we would like to support. The ASCLS Government Affairs Committee (GAC) has decided it is time to outline some tips for you to be as informed a voter as possible so that you can feel at peace with your voting decisions.
This year is a presidential election year. While these tips are great for voting in a presidential election, they also can be applied to state and local elections as well. Remember that elections at every level of government are important, and if you are not voting in every election, you are not doing it right!
In our opinion, the most important aspect of being a voter in the United States is knowing your own preferences and thoughts on political topics. Do a self-check once a year to see if your thoughts on issues important to you have shifted. List them out and use them as a reference when choosing who you plan to back in any election. It may even be helpful to rank your ideas by their importance to you. No candidate will perfectly align with all your views, so it is important to know which issues are steadfast in your eyes and which can be negotiated as less vital if a candidate meets many of your other criteria. You can also find a multitude of questionnaires online if you want to see where the internet thinks your loyalties align. Either way, take an honest evaluation and go from there.
“We challenge everyone to … take the time to get to know yourself, research what candidates have done at all levels of government, make those appointments, and weigh options with an open mind and heart.”
Next comes the tough part. You now need to evaluate which candidates best meet your criteria. On the national level, this can be much easier as there are websites where you can review the voting history of every member of Congress and see how a candidate has voted on bills related to issues that are important to you. Voting history is key in the decision-making process because what a candidate says they will do and what they actually do can be very different. Most people will not stray drastically from their voting history if given a similar issue again. A couple of good websites to look up voting history are www.senate.gov/legislative/HowTo/how_to_votes.htm and justfacts.votesmart.org. If a candidate is not an incumbent, and does not have a voting history, you can learn more about the candidate by following him or her on social media, checking out his or her campaign website, or attending an in-person or virtual event hosted by the candidate.
On the state and local level, it can be more challenging to get an idea of what policies a candidate supports. Maybe your state has a similar website you can use to track your state government officials’ voting history. Locally, getting to know a candidate tends to require some additional personal connection. The best way to decide is to have a conversation with people, and this pertains to all levels of government. Listening to speeches is fine, and watching their advertisements can be informative, but having a one-on-one conversation is always the best way to get a clearer idea of whether that person is someone you would like to support. Meeting these people can pose its own challenges, but we believe it is important to reaching an informed opinion of a candidate.
Most states and municipalities have websites where they list contact information for their members of government. Remember your government officials work for you, so don’t be afraid to email or call them with questions or concerns about certain policies. Set up an appointment with the ones that directly represent you and go meet them.
Additionally, be on the lookout for events a candidate may be hosting in your area and attend if possible. It is good for all parties involved to know who is representing them and who they will be representing. We are all humans, and despite what we may think, that human interaction can be meaningful.
Finally, we encourage you to “go with your gut.” You may have very strong alliances with parties or specific people. This is a great part of our country’s setup that you can align yourself freely with the political party of your choice and speak freely. We want to emphasize that, through the above research, you listen to your heart. If someone unexpected really resonates with you, it is okay to support them. If someone that is a part of your current alliances rubs you the wrong way, it is okay to not support them. Politics is not all or nothing. We are in a culture of divisiveness right now and that makes things extremely difficult. Many candidates are polarizing in their personalities. Strengths and weaknesses in personalities are put on display during election years. All that is okay. It really is your right to vote for whomever you feel not only supports a similar set of values as yourself, but also someone that resonates with you as someone you humanly can support.
We challenge everyone to put the heightened emotions aside for just a few days while you really take the time to get to know yourself, research what candidates have done at all levels of government, make those appointments, and weigh options with an open mind and heart. We got this, America! Oh, almost forgot … GO VOTE!!!
Stephanie Noblit is a Legislative Attorney at the Legislative Analysis and Public Policy Association in Philadelphia.
Jessica Lawless is a Medical Laboratory Scientist at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho.