by Holly Gardner
Every day, as I drive around running errands and visiting family, I see campaign sign after campaign sign on every stinking corner and in a lot of front yards. It’s an election year and the races for State Representatives, State Senators, School Superintendent, and even Governor are not hard to miss.
In election years past, I relied heavily on my parent’s opinion, party lines, and tv commercials. One year I even voted for a State Representative because I went to school with his son. The kid didn’t seem so bad, so I was sure his father was a great choice! That was a decision I regret, big time.
This year is different. I’ve discovered a lot of resources out there for making more informed decisions. Different non-profit groups sometimes post voting records of candidates (though be weary, they do not explain why the candidate voted the way they did, which sometimes is a much better indicator!), news groups often post information and “facts” about candidates, and the Secretary of State’s office (who is in charge of elections) posts voter guides and information.
But let me tell you about my favorite source of information: the candidates themselves. Last week I was invited to a “meet and greet” for some local candidates in a private home. I was very excited about going because I had had some concerns about one of the candidates. It was a candidate that I had been hoping to meet for over a year, and then had more recently been confused by one of his votes during the last session. I had called his office in the past, but had no luck.
Let me tell you what! I am SO glad I went to that meet and greet! Each candidate was given the opportunity to tell us their philosophy, their goals, and their plans and ideas, all within the intimate setting of neighbors gathered in a living room.
To hear how they felt their plans would benefit my community, city, and state was the absolute best source of voter information. To see them in person, to see them interact with others and respond to hard questions, to hear them explain past decisions and compare themselves to their opponents was invaluable.
Now I’m not saying that I was influenced by charisma. I’m not saying that I was influenced by negative campaigning against their opponents. The candidates were not especially charismatic; they showed their real selves to a few neighbors in a constituents’ home. The candidates did not slam their opponents; in fact one candidate praised his opponent as a person but informed us of how they differed in philosophy.
The whole experience was like an informative family dinner, but without a dining table. You get a feel for who you agree with and who you don’t.
Did you know that these happen often? Look at your local candidates’ facebook pages, websites, or twitter feeds. Candidates frequently post information regarding meet and greets, town halls, and other such events. Be proactive! Go hear them! Go meet them! Ask questions! They represent you. Make sure that you understand the people who will be representing you in your government.
And above all, VOTE! A passive opinion on issues and philosophies doesn’t do much in swaying a government agenda, but an active voice can! Remind your family, friends, social media followers, congregation members, and strangers in the check-out line to make sure they register, get informed, and vote.
And next time you drive by campaign signs or see a passionate tv commercial, remember that there is a much better way to come to a decision.