Voting in 2022 in a California election couldn't be easier! You don't even have to go to a voting place any more. The ballot is mailed to your house and you send it back in a postage-paid envelope.
But how do you know who to vote for? More good news! Because we live in the Information Age, you no longer need to vote for the person who has the most street signs. In fact, I suggest you DON'T vote for the person with the most campaign signs or endorsements.
Of course I want people to vote for me. But I decided to peruse the internet and see what advice place like the League of Women Voters had for voters when selecting a candidate for a local office. Here are their 7 Steps voters should consider when picking a candidate when you don't know who any of them are.
Elections present voters with important choices. Whether it is a local race that will affect your community or a national race that could change the direction of the country it is a time to consider the issues which you care about and decide which candidate you support.
How do voters go about comparing and then judging candidates?
The seven steps outlined below are designed to help you judge a candidate.
Decide what you are looking for in a candidate. Find out about the candidates Gather materials about the candidates Evaluate candidates' stands on issues Learn about the candidates' leadership abilities Learn how other people view the candidate Sorting it all out
Here is the link to their page for more details on these 7 Steps.
This is good advice, but I have some additional suggestions from my own experience.
Are the candidate's talking points generic and geared to what they think a voter wants to hear vs. do they really knowing the issues? If a candidate uses buzz words like "Lowering Crime, Better Jobs, Solving the Homeless, Repairing Potholes, and Improving Public Schools", and nothing else more specific, try a different candidate. If a City Council candidate writes they are going to improve schools, cross him or her off the list! City Councils normally do not have jurisdiction over school districts. You want a candidate that really understands the community and doesn't need to rely on fluff answers with no substance.
Does the candidate have name recognition because he/she is already involved in the community? In local politics, it's not unusual to see people run for office once and then never hear from them again. But if you recognize the name of a candidate whether it be for volunteering (for something more than a community cleanup) or is actively involved in a civic organization or charity, that's a good sign. This means they they are already invested in improving your city. Even better, does the candidate seem well-versed on the inner workings at city hall? Does he/she know who is in charge of departments and how things get done. Many people get elected
If a City Council candidate writes they are going to improve schools, cross him or her off the list! City Councils typically do not have jurisdiction over school districts.
What is the candidate's motivation for running? Is the candidate just using this as a stepping stone for higher office? Is he/she a serial candidate....running for any office just to get elected? Is he/she terming out of a previous position and is now seeking a new position because they need a job? Or is he/she sincere about improving your community?
Does the candidate have any "red flags"? What are some red flags? There can be many kinds of "red flags." It can be a number of things. The way they speak; people, even a small group of people, speaking negatively about the candidate for being unethical. There is a candidate running for mayor and he wrote on social media, "When are city council meetings? Where do they meet? I would like to go to one." Huge red flag! He's running for office and doesn't even know when the city council meetings are? Another red flag is just having a gut feeling that there is something about that person you don't like or trust.
For me, one of my biggest concerns is if someone has lots of endorsements or donations from unions, special interest groups, or developers. I ran for City Council in 2014 and spent $2000 of my own money. But a fellow City Council candidate had an independent political action committee (PAC) spend $150,000 on his campaign! This was a local city council race where candidates just aren't able to raise that kind of money in a city of 200,000. It was from a wealthy developer and it seemed unfair they could do that. But it is completely legal.
Receiving a endorsements from special interest groups, getting large campaign donations, or help from a PAC doesn't mean a candidate is unethical. However, it does make a voter wonder if this about "pay and play" politics. Once elected, that person "owes" something to the giver.
I decided from the onset, this time around, I wasn't going to spend any money, even my own. This will be the focus of a future blog on how NOT spending money created a mistrust of a different kind and why it might not have been the best strategy.
The Bottom Line: You don't have to physically meet a person to know about a candidate. Even if you meet a candidate, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be"What You See is What You Get."
Our current Mayor, who is leaving the seat to be on the County Board of Supervisors won three elections to become mayor. Yet he was a dictatorial, least transparent, and lazy person. Why do I say that? In 2022, he cancelled EVERY study session on the calendar because, well, who knows why he did it. We have had an interim City Attorney for years. Why not hire one? You'll have to ask him. A citizen is suing city hall because they fired the City Clerk but won't release what her Settlement Agreement was, even though by law they are supposed to do so. And this man is running for a higher elected seat? Let's hope voters become wise about his track record.
My final point is....When in doubt, JUST DON'T VOTE FOR THE INCUMBENT!!! It might be the easy thing to do but it might also be the worst thing you can do as well.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Please???
The Teacher has spoken.