The Informed Voter: Researching Candidates on Your Ballot
find who is on your ballot.
The first step to researching candidates is to find out who is running for the races on your local ballot. To find out which candidates will be on your ballot, visit the Minnesota Secretary of State website at http://www.sos.state.mn.us/.
Under the “Elections and Voting” section, near the top of the page, you will find a link titled “What’s on My Ballot?” After clicking this link, you will be brought to a page which will allow you to access a sample ballot. Once you provide your zip code (a nine digit zip code may be necessary in some locations) you will be presented with a sample ballot for your region. It is worthwhile to note that you are allowed to bring a sample ballot into your polling both when you go to vote, so it may make a worthy note page!
Once you know who is on the ballot in your district, you’re ready to start researching the candidates. A good place to start when gathering information about candidates is to visit their official website.
Candidate’s official websites often contain concise sections articulating their stances on current issues. Furthermore, a candidate’s official website will often contain resources for getting involved in their campaign, either as a volunteer or a donor. A simple search of a candidate’s name on a search engine will likely bring up the candidates website, but you may also find links to their website on your personalized ballot on the Secretary of State’s page.
It is one thing for a candidate to speak to an issue, but many people are slow to trust a politician's words. That is why it is important to research how a candidate has actually impacted the issues that they speak to.
The website votesmart.org provides users with detailed information about the candidates on the ballot. After inputting their zip code, the website will provide the user with a list of candidates running for office in the user’s area. Users may view a great deal of information about candidates from this website, including the candidates position on major issues, how the candidate has voted on past bills and resolutions (if the candidate has previously held office), a candidate bio, who the candidate is endorsed by, and where the candidate’s funding has come from.
If you are seeking more particular information, such as how a candidate has voted on issues specific to a certain interest group, you may want to seek out congressional scorecards. Several interest groups and nonprofit organizations release their own congressional scorecards. These scorecards grade sitting representatives based on their voting records on legislation in which the organization is interested. The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Rifle Association, the Sierra Club, and a great deal of other organizations release scorecards after major legislative sessions and make them available on their websites. If you follow any politically active organizations, or if your goals align with an existing organization, glancing over these scorecards can be a quick and easy way to inform yourself on how a candidate votes once in office.
whether you vote or not is public record.
The most important thing to remember with election day approaching is that your vote matters. Politicians, as well as their campaign staff, are able to access data which shows who votes in elections and who does not.
Aside from not participating in democracy by failing to cast a vote, elected officials and candidates running for office are unlikely to cater to the wants or needs of people who do not vote since those people play no part in their election/reelection. By voting, you show representatives that you have interests and that you want to hold them accountable, no matter which party you vote for.