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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How to choose the best candidate when voting in an election
Author: Andrew Shecktor/March 18, 2013
There are very few resources available that assist the average person in the process of researching candidates in an election and in making an informed decision. This article should provide some insight into this.
The process is essentially the same regardless of whether this is a local, state or national election. Choosing the right candidate for local offices (particularly council, school board and mayor (when applicable) is especially important, as these offices directly affect you as resident of your community, yet turnout for local elections is generally significantly lower than for state or national elections, where an individual vote is less likely to affect the outcome, and the outcome is less likely to affect the citizen.
In order to affect your decision you should use all resources available to you (Local news, newspapers, Internet, etc…) Your decision should not be affected by the candidate being a personal friend, nor exclusively by the recommendation of a friend or colleague.  Neither should you select a candidate based solely on party affiliation, as the better candidate, particularly in a local election may come from either party. Party issues come into play more in state and national elections than in local elections (with the possible exception of school board.)
The following is a checklist for selection of the best candidate (of course this is only a partial list, and many times specific issues will override other qualifications.) Following this list are some general notes. Most of this information is based on elections in Pennsylvania, but most can be applied to any state. I have been a bit vague to provide a bit less confusion in general and in particular to those not in Pennsylvania.
Checklist for selecting a candidate for office:
  1. Research all the candidates: The people who win the elections make policy decisions that will affect you personally and professionally. Before you vote, do some research on all of the candidates running for office.
  2. Attend town council or city hall meetings and other public events:  Most candidates for state, local, and national offices will hold public events that allow you to hear their ideas and ask questions. These events are a great opportunity to get to know the candidates and help you decide who you should vote for.  
  3. Contact a campaign manager for the office: If you have any questions or would like to engage more directly (volunteer, donate money, etc.), most campaigns have Web sites and Facebook pages with easily accessible contact information.
  4. Register to vote: Make sure you are registered to vote at your current address. If you have moved since the last election, contact your local board of elections to confirm that you are registered at your new address.  This must be done within a specified time prior to the primary or general election.

  1. Know where to vote and what to bring with you: You can find your polling place online.  Each state differs in what documentation you must bring with you to vote, so make sure you know what your board of elections requires.
  2. Vote in the primary election: The primary election determines which candidate will represent each party during the general election, and is actually more critical in local elections which may have a number of candidates running for each office.
  3. Vote absentee: Request an absentee ballot as soon as possible if you will be out of the area or will be unable to go to your polling place, for example due to an injury or other known commitment that would prevent you from being able to get to the poll.
  4. Overseas voting: If you are living abroad or advising students who are living abroad, familiarize yourself with the overseas absentee voting procedure and find out the procedure for the state where you are registered to vote.
  5. Vote! It is a civic duty to participate in the election process. For your convenience, many states allow for early voting, something to consider if your state permits it. Be sure to remind all of your family, friends, and colleagues to vote too. Remember, every vote counts!
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