How To Be An Informed Voter

Politics isn’t always fun or exciting or even that entertaining. But it’s important and impactful and if we have learned anything from this pandemic, it’s that elected officials, at all levels, play very important roles in our lives.

Farmers and ranchers are especially impacted by the decisions at the local, state and federal level. From zoning to trade, politicians can significantly change the life of a farmer or rancher. That’s why it’s more important than ever to pay attention, get to know the candidates, do your research and VOTE!

As someone who works in politics, I want to provide some tips on how to become a more informed voter, especially for those that have never voted or who are really paying attention to politics for the first time. Voting and politics can seem overwhelming, but a little time and some careful reading and research will get you a long way in better understanding the candidates and feeling comfortable when you walk into the voting booth. Full disclosure, I am employed by a federal member of Congress. This is not intended to promote any candidate or political party.

  1. Read the candidate’s website and follow their social media channels. A lot of policies and priorities are spelled out on a candidate’s website and social media channels. Check both regularly to find updates on their views and opinions of current issues and events.
  2. Attend an event. Watching the local media outlets and the candidate’s social media site, you should be able to find an in-person or virtual event to attend. Hearing a candidate in person, and discussing issues with others at that event, is another great way to learn more about their issues. Plus, there is often time for Q&A, which allows you a perfect opportunity to question them on an issue you are passionate about.
  3. Take a crash course in civics. Understanding what issues, agencies and rules each office has jurisdiction over helps you better understand what issues you should take into consideration when casting a vote for each office. Your county commissioner has no role in federal trade policy and your U.S. Senator can’t change your county property tax rate. This pandemic has highlighted what power lies within each level of government – and some levels of government people forgot existed. So it’s important you understand what each office holder can and cannot change.
  4. Know your priorities. Each of us cast our votes for very different reasons. Some people vote on one issue and one issue only. Others take into consideration a few different issues while others former their opinions based on personality of the candidate. None of these approaches are wrong.
  5. Connect with organizations. Be it your church, an agriculture organization or something much more specialized, many of these organizations provide policy points and voter guides to outline where each candidate stands on a particular issue.
  6. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It’s rare that you find a candidate that you line up with on every issue. So crossing off a candidate because they don’t meet every last single criterial you outlined will leave you with an empty slate of candidates. Refer back to #4 and set your priorities then find the man or woman that best matches those.
  7. Go with your gut. You don’t vote for a candidate to be hip or fit in with your friends. If everyone is voting for a particular candidate but that person just doesn’t seem like the best option, then do your own thing. Americans enjoy an unprecedented level of anonymity in the voting booth so use it! Only you know your final decision.
  8. Be social media smart. Learn to recognize fake media platforms, bot Twitter accounts and misleading articles. It’s not easy but learning to identify factual and unbiased reporting is essential to truly understanding what is going on. Go straight to your preferred media outlets and follow trusted sources on social media. Don’t let a misleading headline or completely false news story dissuade you. And please, do not share any articles you cannot verify.

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