Be a smart voter! Presidential elections get a lot of attention, but elections at the state, county, and local level shape your community. It’s important to remember that your vote is your voice, and you should use it! Here are the things in your daily life that are decided by elections at various levels of government (items italicized that NVC is concerned):
- Federal elections: president, defense, treasury, justice, labor laws, environmental protection, infrastructure, federal taxes, food and drug administration (FDA), and more.
- State elections: governor, state house senators, assembly members, attorney general, voting districts, election rules, propositions/initiatives, environmental
legislation, state taxes, and more.
- County elections: supervisors, judges, sheriff, district attorney, registrar of voters, public health, county jails, community colleges, local taxes, and more.
- Local elections: city council, police, fire department, streets, schools, libraries, parks, sanitation, building codes, parcel taxes, and more.
1: Check out the endorsements.
Endorsements are the easiest way to assess candidates and ballot measures (i.e., propositions and initiatives). How do you feel about the people and organizations who support or oppose them?
When considering candidates, consider their endorsers and those endorsers’ values. Are they individuals, groups, and values you respect? Candidate endorsements are especially helpful during primary elections where people from the same political party are competing to be on the final election ballot.
When it comes to propositions and initiatives the details can be overwhelming, but guess who has time to study the details… endorsers and PACs.
Additionally, check out the legislative sponsor and cosponsor(s) of any legislative bills. They are listed on the first page of a bill, before its main text. You can determine the sponsor and cosponsors of a particular bill by opening a bill information page on Congress.gov and selecting the “Cosponsors” tab.
2: Follow the money.
- Bills are often named in a misleading way or through contrived acronyms (PATRIOT Act, anyone?) that sow confusion. To get to the bottom of a bill quickly, go to leading endorsement website for the bill and click on donate or read the about us information to find out how donations are handled.
- Political parties and PACs (political action committees) are regulated by the federal or state government. To see their top donors visit the Federal Elections Commission at www.fec.gov/data/ and the California Fair Political Practices Commission at www.fppc.ca.gov/transparency/top-contributors.
Social welfare organizations cannot support candidates. 501(c)(3) types whose donations are tax-deductible (e.g., League of Women Voters Education Fund
and 411.org) may only do limited advocacy on issues, while 501(c)(4) types (e.g., League of Women Voters) whose donations are not tax-deductible are allowed to advocate on issues.