Is it just me, or does everyone else hear Sunshine Anderson’s “Heard It All Before” in the back of their minds, when listening to promises rattled off within campaign commercials?
If there is one word to describe how most voters feel after 2016 elections, it would likely be “traumatized.” As the midterm elections continue to unfold, many voters are giving a few promising candidates on their ballot some major side-eye. After all, it’s frustrating to receive daily news updates without being concerned about the ways in which our communities are being governed.
According to a national survey conducted by the NAACP, 62 percent of Black voters believed it’s more important to vote in 2018 midterms than 2014, while 82 percent of Black voters felt disrespected by something Trump said or did. This has heightened awareness during election season. Furthermore, political discourse has motivated people to turnout in historic numbers, which has helped nominate candidates like Ayanna Pressley, Andrew Gilliam and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
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However, as voters head out to polls this election, how can they vet all the candidates, who promise change? How can we elect individuals that are capable of counteracting the effort to further disenfranchise and marginalize certain communities?
1.) Read Candidates’ Campaign Platforms
Campaign websites are the best place to learn about a candidate’s background and campaign platform. Most of these sites have an “issues” page for viewers to read about a particular candidate’s position on certain issues.
Be mindful about the issues they take positions on, and the issues they don’t. For example, if reproductive freedom is important to you and a candidate doesn’t mention their position on this on their website, this can be a red flag.
Candidates and campaigns are strategic about their messaging, and — to be fair — not everything can live on a website. If you’re impressed by a site or simply would like to learn more about the candidate, sign up to receive updates from the campaign by sharing your email. By signing up to receive emails and updates from the campaign, you’ll be able to stay informed about various messages, policy plans and efforts.
2.) Check Endorsements
A great way to vet a candidate's position on issues is to review their endorsements. There are numerous organizations that serve and protect special interests, like healthcare, jobs, transportation and so on by engaging in elections.
If an organization has decided to endorse a campaign, it signifies an investment and validates a candidate on an issue. For example, if you value public education, checking to see if a candidate has been endorsed by a national or local teachers union or education organization is worth looking into. On the contrary, if gun reform is an important issue for you, finding out if a particular candidate has a passing score with the NRA would l inform you about where they stand.
It’s important to evaluate the support of both candidates on your ballot regardless of if you’ve determined who you plan to support, because it will inform about about what your candidate of choice is up against. In the unfortunate case that your desired candidate loses the election, you’ll understand where their opponent stands and the level of support he/she may have to implement their position into action upon becoming elected.
3.) Review Voting Records
Voting records are the real receipts for any candidate who's previously held public office. These records are public and can be accessed online. If a candidate is running for State Senate after formerly serving as a City Council member, you can check their voting history to see where they stood on important issues like transportation, policing, budgets and the environment. Understanding the political habits of a candidate will inform you about the way they will serve if elected into higher office.
4.) Pay Attention to Earned Media
Earned media is the unsolicited promotion of a particular campaign and candidate. Unlike commercials and radio ads, earned media is an unbiased perspective about the candidate that isn’t confined to the campaigns messaging and agenda.
To find earned media about a candidate, type their name into a search engine and see what stories come up. Earned media could be good or bad, so it’s important to be make sure it’s coming from a credible source. Paying attention to how a campaign is highlighted in media is important to gain an understanding of how the campaign is engaging in the community and how that engagement is being received publicly.
5.) Get Involved
One of the most effective ways to vet a candidate is to get involved with their campaign by volunteering, attending events and asking questions. In getting involved, you’ll learn firsthand about the type of team they trust to support them, their vision, how they prioritize their resources, and how they’re working to earn support on Election Day. Hearing directly from a candidate can help settle any doubts or concerns you may have, and might even allow the opportunity to ask questions. If you’re unable to get directly involved, try engaging with the campaign online. There’s nothing wrong with sending an email, calling or even tagging them in a tweet.
With so much on the line this year, we should feel empowered to demand solutions and solidarity from those hoping to represent us. As we prepare to vote on November 6, try pulling a sample ballot from your Secretary of State website or local elections board. Your sample ballot will outline each candidate and ballot measure you’ll be voting on this election, giving you the opportunity to research and make an informed decision about who you plan to support. As voters, we have the collective power to determine who the decision makers will be, when our own lives and best interest and lives are put on the line. History has taught us time and time again that elections have consequences. Let’s make sure that this year, we aren't caught slipping.
To learn more about how you can be properly prepare for midterm elections, click here.