Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Not who to vote for but how to vote in 2010 primaries

with one comment

A dear friend of mine called me recently asking for advice on how to vote on Tuesday. We live in Illinois, a state with the “wisdom” to move its primary early, not realizing that moving it for 2008 meant moving it for 2010 and beyond.

My friend knows that I wouldn’t tell her who to vote for. After all, I can’t endorse specific politicians. And it’s not like you might be undecided, and then find a random blog (say DemocracySoup.wordpress.com) and vote based on some opinion.

But I wanted to help my friend guide her to which direction she would feel comfortable once in the voting booth today.

* I told her that if there is a race where there is a clear frontrunner in the primary, vote for a lesser known person. If the person with the most name recognition is going to win anyway, why not vote for someone else? If you like the frontrunner, vote for that person. For many voters, though, they aren’t enthusiastic for that person, even if that person belongs to their party. There is always time to hold your nose in November as the lesser of two evils.

There is a perception that when people read the polls leading up to Election Day, there is pressure to vote for that leader in the polls. The primary is supposed to be about democracy; the general election is supposed to be about reality.

Voting for a lesser known person reduces the margin of victory for that frontrunner, which could make that person pay more attention to the constitutents during the campaign. Those who win primaries by huge margins tend not to pay much notice to the average voter.

* If the race is close, and you like/hate both candidates, consider which candidate has run the better race. Many in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary selected a candidate based on the quality of campaign that was being run. There isn’t an automatic correlation between running a successful campaign and being successful in that position, but you can pick up on some idea of a candidate beyond the sound bites and 30 second commercials.

* Don’t vote based on/against robocalls, commercials. This might seem to contradict the last point. But when you see voters say, “I will vote against the next robo-caller,” this isn’t the path to sensible democracy. Besides, some robocalls are meant to sound like they are from Candidate A when Candidate B is behind them.

* There is a grain of truth behind most wild accusations against a candidate. But it is surrounded by a bunch of innuendo and exaggeration. Try and remember this in the voting booth.

* Research a few important races. If you don’t feel strong enough to vote in every race, find a few that are important to you, and do a little reading. The beauty of incumbency, whether in that position or another position, is that you should have some knowledge of that person.

* When it comes to judges and lesser known races, find an organization you respect, and see who they endorsed. Sounds shallow, but filling in those circles/blanks is part of the democratic process. I actually know someone who is running for a judge position, and I do intend to vote for that person. But most of the time, we have no clue who these people are. In Chicago, there is a pattern of judicial candidates emphasizing their Irish or alleged Irish heritage. Certainly we can do better that that for deciding how our justice system works.

* Bring notes, cheat sheets into the voting booth. If you have an organization’s recommendations, you can bring that with you. Any research you do doesn’t have to be memorized. And if you want, you can print this column out and bring this with you on Election Day.

* Don’ t wait until the last minute to vote. If it is better for you to vote early, go for it. But vote before you go to work or school. Get it out of the way. If you wait, something may happen to prevent you to vote. And of course, if you vote early, the lines are usually shorter, and you’ll feel better about voting, knowing it didn’t take long.

Encourage democracy. The only thing that really scares politicians is when there is a huge turnout for voting.

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Written by democracysoup

February 2, 2010 at 12:13 am

One Response

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  1. What we have been viewing for a long time now that the leaders of the political parties have lost associations with the Public. The leadership we have now pronounce pick a position. I don’t need to pick one side or other. I would rather pick a person that trusts in the same values that I believe in and I really don’t give a flying **** what political party he/she belongs to. If it doesn’t fit don’t buy it. That’s as elementary as can be.

    Tameika Modesto

    February 18, 2010 at 11:12 am


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