Do you vote in local (City/school board/county) elections?
How do you decide on a candidate?
Reason for this quiz… I am currently running for school board in my large town (not large city). Whee! A volunteer position that makes half the town hate you no matter what you do! What a great idea to spend hours campaigning for it!
I am receiving lots of advice along the lines of “Oh, you have to go door to door” “No, you have to do send out postcards.” “No you have to get lots of letters to the editor printed.” As near as I can tell, everyone is just wildly guessing based on whatever ideas they can think of. Some things (going door to door) just really don’t seem to be worth the time spent for the few people contacted. What sways your vote?
(Note that there is no local TV in this town, and the local newspaper sucks and rarely provides much coverage of local races.)
Yes, I vote in local council elections, which are the Australian equivalent. It’s compulsory*. However, I would vote even if it were voluntary. I think it’s important to have one’s say in what will/won’t/should/shouldn’t happen in the local area.
The candidates usually use letter box drops to promote their views on the various issues. The local newspaper carries stories on the candidates too. Some of the candidates set up booths in the local shopping centres on Saturday mornings, or stand at the stations and bus stops on weekday mornings. I’ve also seen them at parks and sporting fields on the weekends handing out leaflets to the parents while their children are playing football. My council is quite a small area (about 10 sq km), so it’s probably not too hard for a candidate to get around it all.
There’s generally a debate as well in the local council chambers between the candidates for the mayoralty.
I base my vote on the candidates’ leaflets, word of mouth, my previous dealings with the current councillors etc. One of the councillors in my ward is happy to hand out her home phone number and you can ring her at any time with an issue. She follows through too. She’s got my first preference vote for as long as she wishes to continue standing.
You have to show up at the polling place, take a ballot paper, get your name ticked and then place the ballot paper into the ballot box. You can’t actually be forced to vote per se. You can draw all over the ballot, write obscenities, leave it blank etc if you desire. I just figure that if I’ve made the effort to get to the polling place, I may as well cast a valid vote.
Why? I feel that it’s my civic duty to vote, and if I’m going to vote, I should vote in every election that I’m eligible for. I want to help people get their start in politics, and it’s easiest for someone to get started on the local level. (I wish more third party candidates would run at the local level. Starting out at the top might be a good way for a third party to get publicity, but it doesn’t seem to be working at actually establishing a presence or getting people into office.) Local government has an immediate effect on my life.
When seats on the City Council were up for grabs, my local civic association organized a public meeting for candidates to meet residents of my neighborhood and speak about their platforms. Some School Board positions were open too, so school board candidates were also invited.
Everyone introduced themselves, spoke about their platforms for a few minutes, and answered questions from the audience. There was a period of shmoozing afterwards, but I left to go home at that point.
I attended because I wanted to see these people in person to get a feel for their competence, intelligence, dedication, and personalities.
If a candidate wasn’t at the meeting, my estimation of him or her immediately went down. I made the effort to come to this meeting; why couldn’t you? Especially since YOU’RE asking for MY vote.
The more articulate and poised someone was, the more attention I paid to that candidate.
I listened to what the candidates said they had done for the community. If you were instrumental in getting a high school building slated for demolition turned into condos instead, or if you got someone’s electric service reinstated, more points for you. I wanted some evidence of effectiveness and dedication.
Relevant to School Board–current volunteer work in the school system earned points in my book. Credentials such as employment as a schoolteacher or a master’s degree in psychology or education, etc. also factored into my decision. If someone’s platform sounded impractical or unlikely to work, I put that person into the NO column. For example, before the meeting, I had marked one of the candidates for School Board as a maybe. I decided against him because his solutions for fixing the problems with the city schools were based on the assumption that the city could get more money from state government. He did seem to genuinely care about the schools, and the city doesn’t get its fair share of state funding, but let’s face it–it’s unlikely that we can get more money, so what can you do with the current level of $$$ (or less)?
I do look at posters, flyers, and newspaper ads. If a Web site is mentioned, I will look at it. (I’m in my late 20s. Older voters might not be as comfortable with computers.) I want to hear candidates speak, if possible, and if that’s impossible, I want to see a coherent description of someone’s platform, background, and credentials that I can refer to. On the Web is best; failing that, a brochure or newspaper interview.
I live in a city of about 150,000 people in the U.S. Does your town have civic associations? You could ask one of them to let you speak at a meeting. I don’t think you need to go door to door (you can’t go door to door in my apartment building, anyway), but I do think you need to provide some opportunity for potential voters to meet you.
That’s too bad. Local papers are one of the few sources of information about this place. It’s not a city that inspires many people to write reams of text on the Internet about it.
At the very least you should take out an ad in the paper and list a Web site where people could go for more information. Can you get the editor to give you an interview? Maybe you could print up some leaflets and make them available in local stores?
I do as well. The closer you go to the local level, the more your vote actually affects your day-to-day life. Yeah, I was ticked when GWB was re-elected, but not as much as many others were because I know the office of the presidency makes few decisions that affect me. A lousy mayor will make your life much worse than a lousy president will (unless, of course, that president is so lousy that he decides that nukes are the only answer or something).
I always get a chuckle at those who don’t vote in local elections because they “only vote when it’s an important one”. Hell, by that logic, the presidential election is the one you should be sitting out.
I vote in local elections. Ever since the fundamentalists started trying to get on school boards and reinstate creationism, I’ve paid close attention to the people running for school board elections. I usually use a local newspaper for information about candidates, but also browse the direct mail I get from various candidates. I watch for “buzzwords” or endorsements which can tell me if I think the candidate is in the hands of the Christian Right.
As far as mayor and city council elections, they’re usually not too political in places I’ve lived. However, when I lived in Columbus, I only voted for candidates who supported the smoking ban.
I vote in local elections because, like others, it is my civic duty. Local elections are often decided by a couple votes.
I also live in a large town (small city? 300,000 people or so). I just graduated high school and I help out a few debate teams here in town, so I know many of the people involved in education here. That said, I voted in the last election on who I thought would do the best job (from my interactions with them) and also who hadn’t totally burned a bridge with me. One candidate in particular was just an evil, vile, fake woman and I certainly didn’t vote for her.
Absolutely. The local governmental decisions are the ones that affect my life the most; I’d like a say in them. Of course, it’s frustrating when the dumbshits go vote to build bigass playpens for athletes that are payed for with my tax dollars, simply because they equate having a sports team as somehow improving the city.
Same with deciding that it’s cool to have a train run 7 miles to nowhere, at grade level, right up and down one of the busiest traffic corridors in Houston. Since that got voted in, it’s caused over 70 accidents, killed at least one person and caused the failures of I-don’t-know-how-many businesses while it was being built, and nobody rides it. But what the hell, the wheelers and dealers made a buck and we have a toy train, so everything is cool.
Okay, I’ll got off the soapbox now…
Good for you in getting involved.
Usually the CofC will have some kind of a get-together where we can meet and question local office candidates. In addition, the Houston League of Women Voters always puts out an excellent factsheet on candidates and propositions. I try to do my homework.