The first time I voted (in 1996), I remember looking at the big piece of paper in front of me and wondering who all those people were and why I hadn’t heard of them or their competitions. I made completely uneducated guesses at who I should vote for because I didn’t know about any of the races except for the big ones. Since then, I have discovered a couple of valuable resources that can aid in understanding the smaller races and the ballot measures that you might find lacking explanation.
At Project Vote Smart, find the box labeled “Find Your Representatives” and enter your zip code+4, if you know it. If you don’t then just enter your 5 digit zip code and find the link on the right hand side of the new page labeled “Don’t Know Your 9-Digit ZIP?”. This will take you to the USPS site to enter your address to find your zip+4. Once you enter this information in Project Vote Smart’s site, it will bring up a page listing your current elections, officials, and candidates. Take a look at these and, if necessary, look up the candidates you are not familiar with using your favorite search engine to help inform your decision.
For information on local ballot initiatives, go to Ballotopedia. Scroll down to the map of the US and click on your state. You will find yourself on your state’s page and there are various ways you can view ballot initiatives, school referenda, etc. Take a look at what they list and (once again) use your favorite search engine to locate more information on the topics, find articles on local newspaper sites, and make your informed opinion.
If you know me or have read much of what I’ve written, you know what my political views are – I try not to make things like that mysterious. However, you should also know that, as an American, I value the diversity of ideas and opinions that makes our nation great. So I encourage EVERYONE to vote, no matter your political views. All I hope for is that everyone who votes makes informed decisions that were carefully thought out. Please inform yourself and VOTE!