An intelligent voter learns about political candidates – their backgrounds, their experience and their positions on important public issues – before walking into the voting booth on Election Day. Pulling the lever simply because a candidate belongs to a particular political party, or for some random reason that has nothing to do with public policy or good government, almost always leads to eventual voter remorse. Here's how to get information about political candidates.
- First, it's important to identify the candidates. After the filing deadline has passed, a prospective voter can secure a complete list of candidates whose names will appear on the election ballot. This list can be obtained from the board of elections by visiting the elections office in person, making a phone call to the office or, most conveniently, accessing the board's Web site. A thoughtful voter considers all candidates carefully, and overlooks none.
- When the candidates are seeking a local or regional office, it should be easy for the voter to make contact with either the candidate or a representative of the candidate. The voter can learn where the candidate stands on pressing issues by reviewing the candidate's public record, digesting any position papers or public statements issued by the candidate or making an appointment to speak to the candidate directly.
- A voter can review past editions of newspapers to review coverage of the candidate. The newspaper accounts provide a more objective view of the candidate's background than official campaign materials. Some newspapers allow for easy public access online to archived stories, but in many cases, it may be necessary to visit the newspaper office directly and ask for assistance. Additional information on candidates may also be gathered through an Internet search.
- Prospective voters can learn more about where the candidates stand on important issues by surveying the candidates' Web sites or visiting their campaign headquarters. Official campaign Web sites and campaign offices routinely announce scheduled appearances by the candidate. A clearer impression of a candidate's abilities can be gauged through seeing the candidate in person. There may even be the opportunity for the voter to attend an organized debate or joint public appearance in which all candidates participate. These events are particularly valuable because the voter can compare candidates' respective performances and come to a conclusion on which is most qualified.
- Finally, if there is an issue of particular significance, the voter can contact advocacy groups, or review their Web sites. These groups have the time to sift through a candidates' record, and their support for or opposition to a candidate can be one more factor in the voter's learning process.
Each citizen has a responsibility to decide which candidates are best suited for public service, and an informed decision comes only through personal investigation and thoughtful discernment.