No, this is not a "I always vote for this party" post, this is a step by step procedure of how I cast my vote in elections. Considering the amount of posts I see on a daily basis which consist of nothing but a re-post of a political image or slogan, with no added commentary or just a "Yeah", I am forced to conclude that many people don't do much research on their own. Hence a little guide for those of you that might just go into the booth and cast your ballot for people with the appropriate (to you) letter after their name.
1. Register to Vote - You would be surprised how many people forget this, especially if they are moving. The simple fact of the matter is that if you aren't registered, you can't vote.
2. Obtain Sample Ballot - In the vast majority of cases, this comes in the mail a few weeks prior to the election. If you don't get one, you can call your municipality or local board of elections and see if they can get one to you. This is a crucial step, since everything from here on is dependent on having this piece of paper.
3. Determine Incumbents - Also know as "Determine who has one strike against them." All things being equal, I vote for new comers over incumbents. I just have an innate problem with career politicians. Public Office is not supposed to be a career, it's supposed to be service to the community. For example, the mayor of my home town is a paid, elected position. The person that holds the office, though, has a day job because the pay is worth it for their time, but not enough to make a living off of. That just keeps them honest, IMHO.
4. Research Candidates - Here's the hard part, especially as one gets more local. Take the ballot and look up all the candidates. See where they stack up on issues that are important to you. My general rule of thumb is that if someone agrees with my position on more than half of the things that are important to me, they are worth voting for. I know that no one will be with me on everything, but 51% is good enough to make me consider them. And I don't just mean those in the R or D columns, I mean research everyone. You might just be surprised on how much you might like an alternative viewpoint.
5. Research Ballot Questions - If there are any questions to be voted on, take a look at them. Don't just go by the ballot says, look into what impact that would have on you and your family. There is usually enough information out there on these questions that you can form a decent enough opinion on it ahead of time.
6. Mark Sample Ballot - Now that you have all of your information collected, weight it all for each office/question. Look at each choice you have and make a decision on what is best for you. Once you've come to a decision, mark that on the ballot. I refer to this as my cheat sheet, since I bring it into the booth with me and cast my vote based on those choices.
7. Vote at Designated Polling Place - I am always surprised by how many people just don't bother to vote, or vote for the wrong reasons. There was actually someone that posted on Facebook something along the lines of "I wasn't going to vote, because I really don't like Candidate A, but now that Public Figure B has endorsed Candidate C, I'll go out and vote for A." Not because this person felt that A most represented what they thought would be good for the office, but because they didn't like B, that meant they had to vote for A. I try to ignore endorsements as much as possible, and simply vote on the issues that matter to me, for just this reason.
See, it's just that easy. Yes there is some work involved on your part, but considering that we elect people who will be crafting laws that will affect all of the residents of this great country, is a little homework really all that bad? I hope I have helped some of you out there with this process. It works for me, so I thought it would be useful for others. Just do me one favor, vote intelligently. Don't go by party, but by what issues are important to you as an individual.