You’re registered to vote, you have a voting plan, you know where your polling stations are located, and you are ready to get your civic duty on. But are you really ready to vote?
While this is a super critical election, there is a lot on the table besides choosing the next president, this year alone there are over 95,000 positions to consider on the ballot. Before you head to the polls you gotta know who cares about the issues that matter to you and what ballot items are going to directly impact you. Every election has a significant impact on your life and community whether it is at a local, state, or federal level and making informed decisions helps you take control and shape the future by making your voice heard.
Some states send out ballot question workbooks by mail prior to the election, with key ballot question explanations (https://ballotpedia.org/Features_of_official_voter_guides,_compared_by_state). These often include voter registration forms along with detailed breakdowns of every item on the ballot for your state. Currently only 20 states send out voter guides by mail; and of those that do not the information is available via other avenues, including state websites, local newspapers, post offices and/or libraries. However, only 32 states make voter guide information available online, which puts voters at a disadvantage if they cannot access information on ballot measures in time. Especially now, when we are still grappling with a pandemic.
It’s also important to note that a lot of polling places will not let you use your phone while voting, so it’s best to either write down choices for key ballot items or print out a sample ballot ahead of time.
There are a ton of resources to find out what’s going to be on your ballot this year:
Ballotpedia (https://ballotpedia.org/Sample_Ballot_Lookup) – enter your address, pick the upcoming election & view ballot items. (Note: You may have additional local election dates or races that are not shown here. Ballotpedia provides information about all federal and state elections, including state ballot measures, plus comprehensive coverage of local elections for the largest 100 cities.) There is also a Ballotpedia app available for Android and iOS that can be used to access important election information on the go and save your choices (available here: https://my.vote/).
Head Count (https://www.headcount.org/your-ballot/) – enter your address, this will take you to Ballot Ready (https://www.ballotready.org/) to get information on what’s on your ballot, check your registration, and more.
What’s On the Ballot (https://whatsontheballot.com/) – A great general election cheat sheet for what’s on the ballot this year.
Vote411 (https://www.vote411.org/ballot) – Excellent guide to where candidates stand on critical issues affecting your community. You can use your location or manually enter your address. Sample voting guides available as well.
Google Search (https://bfy.tw/PN4I) – just hit up Google for what’s on the ballot.
This year’s election covers a wide range of topics including election policies on campaign finance, election dates, election systems, redistricting and term limits; tax-related policies; and marijuana and drug policies (including legalization and decriminalization). Voters across 32 states will decide on 120 statewide ballot measures on November 3rd, and unless courts remove items from the ballot, these measures are finalized.
Elections at state and local levels have a significant impact on your daily life, and should be considered just as carefully as federal elections. Sheriffs, district attorneys, city councilors, state representatives, and school committee members are all elected officials that make the decisions that impact your life and your community. Research candidates' positions on issues that have the potential to drastically improve (or impact) the lives of our disenfranchised members of the community and ensure civil rights are protected and upheld — a safer, more inclusive, and equitable community is better for us all. Look into who is funding candidate campaigns to identify potential influences or bias.
Project Vote Smart: (https://justfacts.votesmart.org/) Info on your representatives, including biographies, voting records, issue positions, and campaign contributions.
Campus Election Engagement Project: (https://campuselect.org/voter-education/candidate-issue-guides/) Excellent nonpartisan resource for candidate issues and research on actual voting records vs. what candidates post on their official websites.
Voterly: (https://voterly.com/location/united-states) Learn about elected officials and state government issues.
Knowing what you will face in the voting booth and understanding your state’s ballot measures and the candidates presented is the best way to make an informed decision in this election.
“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” — John F. Kennedy