Everyone go read your voter information pamphlets! Tonight! Right now! Do it. You can also go online to Smartvoter.org which has information on all the candidates and local propositions. It’s so useful!
When you can’t tell what a race is about, or what a candidate’s political philosophy is, then take a few minutes to google them and find out. I just spent a couple of hours doing this and now I feel like my vote will make more of a difference, since I made an actual decision that wasn’t random on all the confusing ballot measures and local races.
I realized during this process that a fair amount of my decisions about state propositions and local ballot measures have a flow chart like this:
– Is it something I obviously agree with, like No on Proposition 85? Certain votes are clear cut for me. No, I do not want a law that denies abortions to minors without parental notification, and I will fight tooth and nail against it.
– Is it something that raises taxes, especially income or property tax, and does something good with it? Then yes, I’ll vote for it.
– Is it a confusing as hell bond measure, where the government wants to sell bonds, a concept I barely understand? Well then. I can’t go by the surface “virtue” of the thing they say they’re going to use the money for. In this case I have to do more homework, and look at the endorsements. Endorsed by League of Women Voters? Teachers, nurses, obvious Democrats, local mayors who aren’t from Atherton or Palo Alto? Then I’ll go with their endorsement, figuring that they probably have done their homework, and I consider them the good guys, or at least the lesser evil. If it’s still not obvious, then I have to go on the web and look at the endorsing agencies. Usually from that it become obvious who are the Libertarian nutbags and Republican robber barons, and so I vote against what they endorse. I also tend to vote with organizations that are sane-sounding defenders of social justice, like California Attorneys for Criminal Justice.
I’m way left of Democrat, or way some other dimension, but I’ll still vote Democrat on nearly anything just so that Republicans won’t win.
For other races, the judicial and local stuff, I’m going and reading candidate statements on smartvoter, and on their personal campaign sites. It’s very informative. The deeper you look, the more likely you are to find the code words that indicate their political philosophies. Again, watch out for the Libertarians; they are often so entitled and clueless as to be dangerously insane, like Jack Hickey. When you figure out who those people are, you can look for them in endorsements, and vote against them… Of course it’s useful to look for SANE people too, like Redwood City Mayor Barbara Pierce, and vote for what she endorses. But voting against insane people is often easier, because they’re easy to spot.
I vote against any jerkwad who talks smack about “tough on crime” or the selfishness of youth and how poor people are dangerous and how kids who can’t pass the test in a grade level should be held back and how we pay public employees too much money. What planet are these people from? In my opinion they are from the Planet of the Total Assholes. And I make it my business to spot these fearmongers and haters, and pointedly vote against them.
In the judicial races, I noticed that some judges, frankly, almost all the women, mention equality, fairness, impartiality, not favoring rich over poor; and all the (all men!) that don’t mention that, and emphasize “enforcing the law and upholding the system”, I’m going to vote no against them, figuring that a failure to take a simple stance on “equality” is signficant.