There are times when people who vote for candidates in national, state, and local elections don’t know much of anything about the candidates politically. Some people vote for or against candidates because they like or don’t like the candidate’s name, where the candidate is from, the candidate’s racial or cultural background, or information for or against the candidate by certain media ads. Snap judgment reasoning can even get ridiculous. For example:
“Democrats are rats. Republicans are for the public.”
“MAGAs are maggots.”
“Independents depend on others to make decisions.”
Other people may simply flip a coin instead of taking voting seriously. Some people will always vote for an incumbent because they want to “go with a winner.” Unfortunately, some people will shirk their civic duty by not voting at all because they feel country, state, or local issues today don’t concern anything they personally value.
One of the more responsible ways of examining candidates politically is through Vote Smart, which I’ve been using for the past four years to guide me in voting, and this opened my eyes to many of the factors to consider before deciding to vote. Vote Smart is a non-profit, NON-PARTISAN research organization founded in 1992 and currently based in Des Moines, Iowa. Some of the founding board members were Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Barry Goldwater, and George McGovern—Republicans and Democrats. The main purpose of Vote Smart is to disseminate information about elected officials and candidates through 17 key voting areas (issues such as abortion, COVID, crime, energy, etc.) and 17 interest group ratings (groups such as The National Rifle Association, AFL/CIO, League of Conservation Voters, Alliance for Retired Americans, etc.). They also have a Political Courage Test question: “Are you willing to honorably tell citizens where you stand on the issues you may face if elected by clearly answering questions of importance to voters?” Responses to this and information on key voting issues, as well as interest group ratings, are published in Vote Smart’s “Voter Self-Defense Manual” every two years.
Vote Smart also has a few other tools on their website, justfacts.votesmart.org, which are extremely helpful in clarifying political information about candidates. In their “The Facts” area, people can simply enter their zip code and names of candidates will appear. Six file folders will come up, including “Bio,” Key Votes,” “Issue Positions,” “Ratings,” “Speeches,” and “Funding.” Also, you can type in any politician’s name running for office and their opposition candidates in Vote Smart’s “Side By Side” tool. For each candidate, this will yield a brief biography, issue positions, voting records by issue, major contributions, public statements, and ratings from various liberal or conservative groups.
If you go to justfacts.votesmart.org or call 1-800 VOTESMART, this information will be provided to you, and it could help you make decisions in this year’s election process. Remember, voting is your right to be a true participant in democracy instead of being merely a bystander. The more factual voting information, the better—for every voter. Vote Smart’s motto is “Facts Matter.”
Views expressed in this blog post are those of its author and do not necessarily represent the views of Vote Smart.
Dr. Peter Lamb is a retired psychologist living in Florida. He has been a Vote Smart Ambassador since January. He is an Honorably Discharged U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam and Germany. Some of his interests include sports, 20th century music, walks on the beach at low tide, and writing for the past few years about various topics and stories in “alongtimeago.blog.”