Individual: So, who am I supposed to vote for?
Respondent: Which candidates most closely align with the issues you care about the most?
Individual: I don’t even know whose running. That’s why I’m asking you!
Respondent: Well, how much time do you have?
Leading up to the March 15th Primary Election, I am expecting phone calls, texts, Facebook messages and emails from people asking me who they should vote for. I know that I will hear conversations at church and in the beauty salon about the upcoming election and someone will ask, well who are we supposed to vote for?
While some people feel empowered when others ask for their advice regarding the “right candidates” I feel somewhat disheartened because I realize how many people are disconnected from the those who make the decisions on important issues like education, criminal justice, economic development, jobs, equal rights and health care. It is hard to imagine that with all the commercials, radio advertisements, mailings, newspaper articles and sample ballots that there are many people who do not know which candidates are in which races or which races are on the ballot. However, we must not place all the blame on the individual voters. I believe I have a responsibility as an elected official to not only listen to my residents but also make sure they are educated on my platform, my values and my passions so that they know why they are voting for me and why I am qualified to lead.
I have decided that rather than tell people who they should vote for, I want to educate people on how to determine for themselves who they want to vote for. Particularly in the African American community, we need to encourage our people to be educated as they enter into the polling booths. Our ancestors were not beaten, dragged, spit upon and jailed so that we could be oblivious to the political system and power that surrounds us. We have a civic duty not only to vote, but to understand why we are voting and who we are voting for. I believe that an educated voter is an engaged resident who not only fights for his or her community but holds elected officials accountable. How can you hold your local, state and federal elected officials accountable if you do not even know who they are?
Well, that is about to change because we are going to sit down right now and learn how to find out about upcoming races and candidates.
So, where do you start? Your County Board of Elections’ website is the best place to learn about the upcoming election. The Board of Elections will have a schedule of elections for the year and the list of certified candidates and issues. After you view that, you can then take time to learn about each candidate by doing a Google search. You will find that many candidates have campaign websites. The incumbents will be listed on a government website and you can learn more about him or her there. Additionally, many candidates are very active on social media and have Facebook pages, Instagram, Twitter and even Snapchat!
You can then go a step further and reach out to candidates via email, social media or phone. I have found that many candidates are very responsive and want to share with people why they are the best candidate and deserve your vote. Many local media outlets will also have articles and videos about candidates leading up to the election. If you have some free time, you can even attend a forum or debate! It is here where you can see candidates in person. You may even be allowed to ask questions depending on the format of the event. As you can see, there are many opportunities for voters to learn about candidates. One just has to be willing to put a little time and effort into becoming an educated voter.
Can you imagine walking into an office building and asking the human resources office, “well, which job should I take?” Would you just listen to them and take the job without doing any research? Would you walk into a car dealership and say, “well, which car should I buy?” Would you go with whatever car the salesman recommended without asking questions and determining if that car fit your needs? I am hopeful that your answer to both questions is a resounding NO! Just like I hope that you no longer rely on someone else to tell you who to vote for. Voting is a very personal decision and it should be based on your values and ideals. Once voting becomes important to all of us, I believe we will see exponential growth in our communities!
In the last general election here in Columbus, around 30% of our population voted. The 2015 primary, we had less than 10%! A small percentage of residents are voting for the people who will make the decisions affecting 100% of us. If you are already an educated voter, then I challenge you to encourage at least one friend to get up to speed on the upcoming elections before March 15th. If you are not educated, then I challenge you to get up to speed and bring one friend along! Let’s work together and raise the number of voters and more importantly, the number of educated voters!
Also, early voting starts today! You can check out your local Board of Elections’ websites for the schedule.
To learn more about Jaiza, check out her bio.
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