Educating Yourself on the Candidates

I like hunting, I like owning a gun, I like the government to stay out of my business. I believe that people should work hard to earn the things they have. So I will be completely honest: I usually vote Republican. I stand with more of the things that party represents than the Democrats or any of those fringe third-party nonsense candidates.

However, just because you are a Republican does not mean I am going to vote for you. I am not some blind sheep that sees a red tie or an elephant and thinks, “sure thing!” No way. I pay attention. I like my Republicans conservative and smart. If you are too far to the right, like you are some kind of Ted Cruz crazy person, I am not going to vote for you. That’s not to say I will automatically go for the Democrat, but if they’re better at their job and are the more reasonable, then I am going to heavily consider voting for them instead.

While it would be nice if I could rely on a fair and balanced media to give me information on the candidates, that is rarely the case. I am usually stuck looking through several different sources in order to get the information I need to have in order to make a good decision. I usually start with the votesmart.org website. It tells me, very simply, what someone’s vote was on a particular issue. These are facts, and I like facts. I can look at particular bills or I can look at the record of different officials. It helps me to get an idea of whether a politician is telling me what I want to hear or if they really believe in the things they say. For example, they could tell me that they believe in less gun regulations, but if they vote yes on more restrictions, then they are misleading me. They don’t get my vote.

I also check Ballotpedia. I can pit the information from votesmart against the information there to make sure that it is correct. They also have a fact-checking section on their site. I like this. It is very straightforward language. They give background, explain the claim, cite facts along with the source they got it from, and wrap it up in a conclusion. When things are clear and concise like this, it is very difficult to lie. I like credible sources, not just mystery “unnamed” people “close to” a situation like what happens all the time in mainstream media. I like to know where the information came from. Ballotpedia will also tell me which elections are coming up so that I have time to prepare for them.

I like being able to hold people accountable as well. If one of my officials isn’t voting how they claimed they would, both sites give me different ways to contact them and find out why. I can also call them prior to a vote and let my voice be heard. Democracy is a process. It only works for you if you participate in that process.