Voting smart sounds like a logical idea, right? Arm yourself with knowledge, watch the debates, get to know the candidates, read newspapers, and go to the polls on November 2 armed with knowledge.
Of course, so few people actually do vote smart. Misinformed voters are rampant. So many are uninformed, in fact, that VoteSmart.org -- a nonpartisan, volunteer-based website that is dedicated to educating fellow citizens about political candidates' backgrounds, experiences, and stances on issues -- was formed.
It may not make you brilliant, but it will at least help you understand what you're supporting. Here are some more ways to Vote Smart in 2010:
- Vote against your parents: A recent poll on TresSugar showed that 40 percent of responders vote like their parents. If you grow up in a political household like I did, it can be very hard to stray from the party line, but you should. At least explore the ideas of the other side. Daddy is a hard core Republican? Volunteer with the ACLU for a little while. Mommy bleeds blue? Check out a Tea Party rally. You may end up in the same place, but at least you did it on your own.
- Be informed: Read The New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, and other major newspapers. Avoid news sources with a partisan agenda (Fox News, I am looking at you!) unless you understand that you aren't being told the full story. As long as you know it has a slant, watch away.
- Think alone: Don't just vote a party line because that is how you're registered. Do research, learn about the histories of each candidate. Know who they are and what they stand for.
- Keep emotions in check: Just because you're mad at President Barack Obama for not doing or saying more or standing up for things doesn't mean you should support the other side out of spite. Remember how little time he has had and that a vote against him will even further stymie his plans.
- Fight apathy: No matter how disillusioned you are, not voting is far worse than reading a bit and heading to the polls. Exercise your right to vote.
- Get involved: If you're feeling defeated or find yourself saying things like "they are all liars" or "more of the same," then get thee to a polling place. Look at all the people out with their signs, talk to them. Be energized by their energy!
- Volunteer: If you're passionate about a certain candidate, go out and hold a sign. It may or may not change minds, but at least you will feed off the enthusiasm of the crowd.
- Communicate: Talk to people. Then talk to more people. Ask questions. Don't worry about seeming stupid, but allow yourself to say what is on your mind.
- Understand issues: Do not see the ballot questions for the first time in the voting booth. Understand what questions will be presented to you and also understand what they mean. No sales tax sounds great on paper, but once you learn all the ramifications of that, you may not be as sure.
- Pay attention to other elections: Look at the national elections that don't affect you. You don't have to know all the nuances of Prop 19 to have a basic understanding of its ramifications. Even if you are not a California voter, it may come to your state next.
How do you vote smart?
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