The 2020 Election is rapidly approaching. If you’re heading to the polls — or filling out that mail-in ballot — for the first time this year with the sole mission of ending the current presidential administration, we understand your position. But since you’re putting in the effort to vote for president, you might as well take some time to see what down-ballot candidates and state measures you might get behind, too.
Sure, navigating the numerous state rules around voting and having to deal with a contentious and ugly political landscape is already draining enough, but the truth is, the presidency isn’t the only thing we’re voting on this year. Depending on what state you’re in, you might also be voting on marijuana legalization, healthcare, climate change, criminal justice reform, and a whole host of other issues that you probably care about almost as much as who sits in the Oval Office. Then there are the local races, the District Attorney, etc.
To help you navigate the local measures and candidates who speak to the issues you’re focused on, we’ve collected the tools you need for down-ballot research below. This information will help you head to the polls dialed in and ready to cast your vote (for more than just the president) with confidence.
Why Should I Care About Down-Ballot Candidates And State Measures And What Is The Best Way To Research?
Simply put, local elections and state measures will have a more noticeable impact on your day to day life. Do you have an opinion about how your local law enforcement responded to the George Floyd protests? You should definitely check if your sheriff is running for reelection. Want to join California, Colorado, and the rest of the weed-friendly states by legalizing recreational marijuana? Vote for it. Think your city council should defund the police? Better check who is running and where they stand on reallocating police funds towards community efforts. Did your Governor do a good job responding to COVID-19, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, is your Governor Rick DeSantis?
These are important questions you need to ask yourself as you assess your voting options because it all goes down in the state measures and with the down-ballot candidates.
If you haven’t even bothered to look at your ballot, your first stop should be Ballotpedia. Finding raw and unbiased information on your local candidates and state measures can be challenging and Ballotpedia offers a Wikipedia-like rundown on everything and (almost) everyone on your ballot. Ballotpedia will give you some larger context on each candidate that your ballot doesn’t have the room to provide and will link you to resources to help you understand what a “yes” and “no” vote really means on any particular state measure.
With election information for all 50 states, Ballotpedia will even give you the tools you need to fill out a sample ballot that you can take with you to the polls or reference while filling out your official ballot, but it should no means be your only stop. Though it has a lot of information, it doesn’t have everything and there is a definite blind spot when it comes to certain small-town mayors and sheriffs, so use it as a starting point rather than an end-all-be-all of information.
Read The Opposition
Have a pretty good handle on your down-ballot candidates and state measures? It’s time to hear the other side. Honestly, this can be the most frustrating part of your research, but hearing counterarguments to your own positions may help you solidify your own beliefs or sway you to adopt a new perspective. A lot of the information for or against a particular candidate or state measure can be misleading, so look for reliable sources like local and national papers or the words of politicians themselves rather than ads paid for by each respective campaign.
Navigate The World Of Judges
Finding information on the judicial candidates in your area is one of the most difficult tasks and blindly voting for a judge can be downright dangerous. These are the people that preside over cases that can include small claims and giant civil cases, so being informed is of the utmost importance here. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-stop-shop for everything judges, so this is going to vary county by county and state by state.
Here are some steps on how to best vet your judicial candidates.
Look for non-partisan ratings on the judicial candidate. Not every state or county will have this, but a lot do. These non-partisan groups — usually connected in some way to the state’s bar association — will rate candidates based on interviews, voting records, and references and are a helpful resource to use when finding out who is and isn’t qualified.
Watch Endorsements. Is one of the judicial candidates supported by the senator or house representative that you’re voting against? Information can be scarce but try to see who supports each candidate and why.
Reach Out To Your Community
While older generations viewed voting as a “private matter” it doesn’t have to be. As a last step, you should definitely reach out to the people in your community who will be directly affected by the state measures you’re voting on. Are rideshare companies trying to change the rules in your state? Ask the next couple of Uber and Lyft drivers you meet where they stand on the law. They may not even know it’s on the ballot, and their feelings on it may change yours. A state measure may not apply or have a noticeable and direct effect on your life, but it most certainly affects somebody in your community, family, or friend circle. So reach out and see where they stand and why!