Last week I was talking about how to pick the right candidates for the positions that matter, but there's a few other voting guidelines which I have come up with. Sometimes and office doesn't seem wholly important to me, or I don't have strong feelings on the issues. Some years I've forgotten my own rules and walked into the voting booth (well, not really a booth, we don't have booths, we have awkward tables with little privacy screens) only to be surprised by some of the issues and positions up for a vote. When I follow my own rules, this doesn't happen.
I don't like political surprises.
Find out what the ballot will look like ahead of time. It really isn't that complicated. Most areas' major newspapers will run the ballots the weekend before the election so that no one is left guessing. This information is also available online. I found mine on the County Clerk's website.
By knowing who and what will be on your ballot, you have the chance to research the topics that didn't seem germane last week.
Research the unopposed candidates. Why even bother, right? Well, I don't know about the specific election rules where *you* are, but here, my votes count even when I skip a section. I have the choice to vote for or skip voting for an unopposed candidate. Unopposed candidates have to get a percentage of the vote to be elected, so it's really a yes or no proposition that is presented somewhat deceptively. So yes, I research the unopposed, at least a little, to know if I want to fill in that oval or leave it blank.
Don't be afraid to leave blanks. As I said earlier, my votes still count, even if there are blanks on my ballot, so I remind myself that it's okay to leave a blank if I still don't know, still don't care, or just don't like anyone running. There are also always options on my ballot where there will be more than one opening on a board of some sort, and I'll be asked to vote for up to three or up to four people. Those are the magic words: up to. I'm not required to counterweight my vote for the one candidate whom I would like to see fill a position by also building up votes for her opponents just because they're the lesser evils coexisting on a ballot. So yes, one is up to three. Two is up to three. Three is up to three. All of these options, including zero, is perfectly acceptable.
Ultimately, I have to remember,
the ballot is not my boss.
Bring the kids. What? Yes, I said bring the kids. Don't electioneer and tell them for whom you are voting and why, but by all means, bring them. If you know who you're voting for ahead of time because you researched the issues and the candidates, and you're not going to be surprised because you made sure you knew what the ballot was going to look like, their fidgeting isn't going to stop you from filling it out correctly and they're going to learn that voting is part of what adults do. It is part of what it means to be a member of a community.
Far too few young people vote. Your children can learn to value it as much as you do if you show them that you value it and help them understand the process. I don't know about you, but I'm raising citizens.
That's it, in a nutshell. Look it up, research anything I didn't expect to find on the ballot, remember that I don't have to vote for everything, and make sure my kids get involved with the political process too. Is there anything I missed?