Voting question

When we go to the polls on a general election, say the times when one can vote for a president, there are often 10-20 other races for office or issues to be voted on. Offices such as state, county, and local offices.

My question, how many of those other races do you honestly feel your prepared to give a true vote on? That you have studied the candidates and can make a good judgement on who is the best?

If you do not, then what do you do?

Do you just flip a coin and vote?
Do you vote just for 1 party?
Do you use a voters guide put out by different groups with political agendas?
Do you just not vote in those elections?

I’ve never lived anyplace where you couldn’t download your ballot in advance so you can research the candidates. There’s no excuse for not doing so.

There’s often very little to research where I live. The newspaper publishes candidate statements in a voter guide, but except for letting me strike out the ones who are cripplingly illiterate (responses are unedited), there’s very little information. Candidate A wants to help the children by building a good school system, and Candidate B wants to build a good school system to help the children. Every once in a rare while an issue pops up that they take differing positions on, but I don’t think that’s happened in a local race since the great speed camera dispute of 2009. Since then it’s just picking the prettiest platitude.

Local newspaper endorsements aren’t a bad fallback, especially since newspapers usually explain their endorsement and you can then agree with it or disagree with it depending on the editorial slant of the paper. Candidates will also often tout police or fireman endorsements. You can also look up their resumes sort of, like if they were in the military or have had a successul career in the private sector or other successful public service. For jobs that really are just about competence and not ideology(Sanitation commissioner!), just go with the best qualified. If your town is so small that there’s no local newspaper of any worth and the candidates’ aren’t on the internet, then you should probably already know them personally. :slight_smile:

In races where there is a party I’ll usually vote for the Republican if I have no other information on that race.


When we got a newspaper, I’d write my choices on the ballot printed in the newspaper, and take that with me to the polls.

My parents are active politically. I don’t agree with all of their opinions, but they are a reasonable source of information.

I take my sample ballot to their place and go through the election once by one, taking notes on what they say. That gives me enough information to research key claims, and make a somewhat informed decision.

It is hard, sometimes, when the choice is “Should this judge be retained in office?”

My fallback is to vote by party, especially if it’s a position where simply having a majority (or similar numeric count) will make a difference, regardless of the person.

When I was still in the US, I just voted the straight party ticket. I don’t recall voting for things like judges, but unless there was a controversy, I would probably skip it.

In Canada, most ballots are for just one office. The only exception is when you vote for mayor and town councillor on the same ballot, but then I am likely to have an opinion of both of them. I skip the school board elections since my last kid graduated 24 years ago and I haven’t followed it since.

I skip minor local offices like Clerk of the Court, where there’s just no conceivable reason to care most of the time.

Unless you’re planning on having a same-sex marriage performed in the court office, of course. May want to have some confidence that the Clerk will issue the licence. :wink:

My state has the initiative referendum process, so often we have Ballot Measures on the ballot. I actually get to review these before they make it into the voters pamphlet so I am quite familiar with them before they show up on the ballot. I typically vote a straight party line for president, senators, representatives, etc. Judges here are non-partisan. I know most of them either personally or by reputation and vote accordingly.

I often don’t have a clue about those elections, but it usually doesn’t matter since the candidate is either running unopposed, or the candidates’ parties are clearly marked and I do have a party preference. If there are two or more candidates and I have literally NO information that would allow me to make an informed decision, I usually just skip it.

I’ve found that there usually are nowadays.
We had 30-some Judges races on the last ballot, but only a half-dozen had opponents. I found that the bar association had fairly good reviews of them, though not endorsements. One of the most helpful to me is the list of groups that have endorsed each candidate.

The other source of information is personal contacts. Like the election for our Commissioner on the Soil & Watershed District Board – I know someone active on those issues, so I call her up and ask who to vote for.

Newspaper endorsements aren’t so good anymore. They used to be by the local editor/reporters, who followed local government and knew the people running. Now, much of the mainstream media is controlled by monopoly owners, who tell their local papers who to endorse. For example, here in Minnesota, a great number of the small/medium town newspapers are owned by a single (right-wing) owner, who dictates who they should endorse. It’s become common to see the identical endorsement article in many of those papers, differing only in the name of the paper that signs at the bottom.

And Police/Fire endorsements can cost as many votes as they gain, here in the solid-blue Metro area.

If it’s non-partisan, I skip.
If it’s partisan, I’ll skip or vote L or G. I know nothing about those candidates, either, but they have little chance of winning.
I never vote straight ticket.

US Representatives and above, I generally research independently (but usually end up voting party-line anyway). Downballot offices I usually vote party line. Referendum issues I research independently, except there’s usually one or two county-level ones that are too obscure to have heard of before, for which I decide in the ballot booth. Nonpartisan judges, I usually abstain from voting, unless I happen to have stumbled across some relevant information one way or the other.

Of course, just how much research is needed varies widely from issue to issue. On the one hand, it’s not hard to convince me of school or library levies. On the other hand, sometimes there’s an issue so tangled up that it’s hard to even tell which side is which. And sometimes there’s something on the ballot which looks like a good idea at first, but which turns out to be terrible when you dig into the details.

When it’s the minor races, and I haven’t become well enough informed, I don’t vote by party but by gender. I’ll vote for the woman over the man.

But for President, mayor, governor, senators and representatives. I look those up. I generally end up voting for the Democrats though, after reading up.

The problem is for many of the lesser offices there is nowhere to do independent research other than the candidate’s own website, which, of course, is not independent. Even for the various judicial elections, I could only find bar association recommendations for some of the races but not all of them.

IMHO, the straight party button at the top should be banned. If you don’t have enough intelligence to read the position & the names, you’re not bright enough to be allowed to vote. If you automatically assume that every D or R is better than the other candidate you’re probably one of the feeble minded party apparatchiks who actually believes celebrity endorsements.

Not directed specifically at you Hari Seldon, yours was just the lucky post I replied to, in part because you don’t live in the US anymore.

I vote the party line on legislative races. The real issue is who controls the chamber. Merely being an ordinary jackass or ordinary crook isn’t enough to override the importance of that one vote at the beginning of the session. The candidate would have to be something like a Laroucheite to change this, and even then my response would probably just be to skip that section or vote for a throwaway candidate.

I try to research the judges but finding the needle in the haystack that tells me who will be a better domestic relations division judge is difficult. (I admit that I use party nominations for this sometimes. The state commits election fraud by listing these races as a “nonpartisan judicial ballot” anyways, so I don’t feel bad about counteracting fraud by looking up forbidden information and using it.)

Local races are rarely contested and there’s rarely meaningful information about the candidates. Sometimes I’ll be lucky and one candidate will fail to fill out the newspaper voter guide, and sometimes a candidate will “want to help u alot” or list their religion as “LUV JESUS.”

There might be anywhere from a few to a dozen or more propositions on a statewide ballot.

Once, a few years ago, I got a bug up my ass to try being an informed voter and really making informed choices about these. Wow, I hadn’t realized how much work that would be!

How does one go about making informed decisions? The voters’ information booklet that we get a few weeks before the election? It has a one-paragraph blurb written by advocates, and a one-paragraph rebuttal to that, and a one-paragraph blurb written by opponents, and a one-paragraph rebuttal. All of it totally and obviously vacuous of any information content. It has an analysis by some non-partisan office of whoever analyzes those things, with estimates of taxpayer costs and such. It has the full text of propositions, typically half-a-dozen pages of incomprehensibly dense legalese.

Then, there are the newspaper editorials. All of them written to push one point of view.


I went down the list, one proposition at a time. I googled up newspaper editorials from papers all over the state on each one and read a whole bunch. This got me some very detailed arguments on all sides of every issue. I read editorials from conservative papers in conservative areas, and editorials from liberal papers in liberal areas. I got a good idea of what the pros and cons were in each case.

The problem? It took me hours and hours and hours and hours to do all that study! And that just got me through a few of the propositions! Seriously, I came away with the realization that this is what it takes to be an informed high-information voter. I just couldn’t take the time, or devote the attention span to studying ALL the propositions this way.

Since then, I’ve taken a more selective approach. I skim the props, and pick a few that seem important for me to take seriously, and study those. For the rest, I just read the blurbs and from those, make essentially knee-jerk low-information choices. Shitty, but it takes such an investment to be a properly informed participant in democracy!

With props, I either understand it and support it, or I vote no.

Well it looks like people here try and be an informed voter.

See thats why I dont care for the “Get out the vote” campaigns where they pat themselves on the back for signing up all these new voters. Well what good is that? Thats almost like stuffing the ballot box. You want voters educated who can then make an informed choice.