By Senator Lena C. Taylor
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”. While the concept of the quote was not original, it captures what many voters do every time they step into a voting booth. They put faith in the people they elect to work on their behalf and be a vehicle for their voice on the issues. Yet, voters don’t REALLY know these candidates.
In an era of heightened partisanship, opportunities to watch candidate debates have been severely diminished. Across the country, fewer opponents are willing to verbally spar and discuss the big issues. Frequently, voters now receive one obligatory public meeting of the candidates. In a possible 60-90 minutes, they are asked to size up each contender.
The rest of their decision will be informed by the many mailers that show up in their mailbox or a possible candidate appearance. The average voter will be in the dark.
There is an expectation that the wishes of electors will inform the work of elected officials. On faith, ballots are cast and power is given. It is only over time, that voters figure out if they trusted the right person.
This mid-term election is an appropriate time to remind both voters and elected officials of their purpose. To ensure that I never forgot the assignment, the “purpose” was incorporated into my signature line. On all of my official correspondence, you will see the words: Here to Serve! Understanding the trappings of power, access, and influence, elected officials must work hard not to lose sight of why they were elected.
Responsibility equally falls to the voter. Every elected office from school board to U.S. President, requires us to do our due diligence in understanding who we are putting in office.
A few years ago, I came across seven steps, that the League of Women Voters, put together to help constituents. This is a good time to review that information again.
Step 1: Determine what you are looking for in a candidate; look at their positions on the issues you care about.
Step 2: Visit VOTE411.org and learn about the candidates on your ballot.
Step 3: Gather information about the candidates.
Step 4: Evaluate candidates’ positions on issues, view their interviews and voting records, determine your impression.
Step 5: Learn about the candidates’ leadership abilities, background, experience and preparedness for the job.
Step 6: Learn how other people view the candidate and why.
Step 7: Create a Candidate Report Card, from everything learned from 1-6, evaluate your options and then ask yourself, which candidate’s views most align with your own.
I know these seven steps may be cumbersome and seem unrealistic for every candidate on your ballot. At least, try to complete step one. If you do the very basic work of understanding the positions of each candidate, you are off to a good start. After all, faith without works is dead.