The Impact of Upcoming Elections
While the 2012 campaign cycle has been drawn out for months, primary season is beginning to wind down, and the choices of candidates for the general election in November 2012 have become more apparent. Voting is an important civic responsibility, and making an informed choice when voting is essential. Below are some tips to help you research candidates' positions on issues that are important to you.
- Decide what issues and qualities are most important to you. Is it health care, the economy, or foreign policy? Think about what personal qualities you think are important: past experience, previous leadership or political positions, or personality.
- Visit the candidates' websites - either their official website if they already hold office or their campaign website - to find out their stances. Candidates generally have an "issues" section where they address major policy topics.
- Presidential candidate sites: http://www.barackobama.com and http://www.mittromney.com.
- Congressional candidate sites: www.house.gov and www.senate.gov. To find the Representative in your congressional district, enter your zip code. To find the Senators in your state, look by state. The Representatives and Senators who are running for re-election will also have a separate campaign website, so be certain to look for those sites, as well.
- Other candidate sites: To find out who is challenging a current Member of Congress, visit a site like the League of Women Voter's Vote411 site. Vote411 allows you to enter your address in order to identify the candidates who are running in your state or district.
- State Representative candidate sites: Look up the website for your state's State Board of Elections for links to local candidates.
- Look up a current Member of Congress' voting record. Legislation the Representatives and Senators have introduced, formal statements they have made, and how they have previously voted on issues can be found by visiting www.thomas.gov.
- Look up official campaign websites. Whether a standing Member of Congress or a candidate for congressional office, everyone has a website, and those websites include a biographical section, which can provide information on the candidates' previous experience and positions on the issues.
- Pay attention to who has endorsed the candidates and where their campaign funding is coming from.
- Carefully consider what others - opposing candidates, the news, even your friends and relatives - say about the candidate. Be on the lookout for any bias or "spin" and be wary of any TV ad tactics appealing to emotions. Look for any buried messages about issues beneath the attacks.
- Finally, evaluate and match your findings with the issues and qualities you outlined as important to you. In some cases, a clear choice that matches your criteria may be evident early on in your research. Other times, a distinction between candidates or someone who obviously identifies with your views may not be as clear.