Okay, so you’ve recently registered to vote and you are (hopefully) excited about participating in our country’s election process for the first time. You even know where your polling place is (if you don’t, then contact your local Registrar of Voters or City Clerk’s Office). Find your polling place in San Bernardino for the November 3, 2015, election.
But now you have another challenge: How do you decide who to vote for?
There are a lot of factors involved in making such an important choice, but how much weight should you give these factors?
If all of your friends or family are very firm in their beliefs about who should win an election it might seem easier to just choose who they like, but is that the right thing to do?
We might choose to go see a particular movie or go to a restaurant because our friends or family liked them, and sometimes we are really grateful we did because we had such a fun time… but other times we wondered what our friends liked about it because – to us, it was just awful. The best thing about it was that it was over in a few hours and we didn’t have to go back.
The results of an election are much longer lasting than a good or bad evening out and affect not just us, but everyone around us. The winning candidates will have at least a say in creating or maintaining policies that make it easier or harder for you to go to school, get or keep a job, start your own business, buy your own home, keep your family safe and healthy, get a good education for your children, or go to a park on a sunny afternoon. Do you really want to risk all of those things on just the recommendation of your friends or family?
Party affiliation can be considered to be like being in an extra “family.” The party may send you a list of candidates that they recommend based on how well those candidates align with the ideology of the party. They have likely examined the comments and possible past voting records of those candidates to ensure that, once elected, they will continue to expand, implement and protect the programs and laws valued by the party; therefore, their recommendations would (although probably much better researched) count as a form of “peer pressure.”
So, how much weight do you give to “Peer Pressure?”
The answer is that YOU decide.
Just make the best, most informed decision you can. Take a good look at who is recommending that candidate. Are they someone who truly wants what you want for the future? Also take a look at – not just who they choose to vote for, but why they made that particular choice.
Is it solely because they are a friend of the family (or party)? If so, then it would be wise to do more research on your own into the values and integrity of the candidate to make certain that they are aligned with the future that you want to see, that the policies they would promote would actually result in that future, and that their qualifications show them to be competent to do the job they are being elected to do. If your particular vision for the future isn’t even close to what the candidate wants, then perhaps you should choose a different candidate.
Did the person making the recommendation make their choice based solely on the candidate’s physical appearance or his/her fashion sense or for any other reason that seems superficial? If so, then you should definitely do your own research regarding that candidate. Your research may ultimately show you that this particular candidate is exactly who you want to be in that office doing that job… or… maybe not. The point is that making an informed choice depends on having the necessary information.
You may feel like you are inundated with political advertising. Through the mail, billboards, posters, flyers, banners on the sides and in the headers of websites you visit on the internet and even postings on social media – the forms political advertising takes are diverse and many. We’ve created a few slideshows to help guide you on deciding how much weight to give campaign material you receive, but ultimately – YOU decide.
Whether you are meeting a candidate face to face at a community event or they have come knocking at your door, your impressions are a valuable factor. Does the candidate meet your eye, and do they give thought to your questions and answer them, or do they evade your questions and change the subject. Do they talk with you and listen, or are they just following a rehearsed “script.” If they tell you that they will do something (like call you with an answer to a question that they didn’t immediately know the answer to), do they do it? An elected office is a JOB, and when you meet a candidate it is akin to the JOB INTERVIEW. You will be entrusting them to help make your vision of your future a reality. Do you think that they can do the job? If not, then you might want to choose another candidate.
You may be able to attend or watch a debate or forum with more than one candidate where you can observe them but not interact with them directly. The League of Women Voters* has created a very informative page called, “Debate Watching 101.”
So ultimately, which factors should carry the most weight when choosing a candidate to vote for?
The answer is the ones that you as an informed voter think should carry the most weight.
Your Vote IS Your Voice.
For more information, here are some additional resources to help keep you better informed:
*The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization, with its national office in Washington, DC, and local and state Leagues in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands.