I've got to hand it to the internet. It makes finding information on the candidates pretty handy sometimes.
I don't know about you but when I see a list of unfamiliar names for things like judge and school board and even soil and water supervisor, I start to get a little nervous.
So the day before, though I always mean to do it earlier, I start poking around the League of Women Voters website, and the ones for the local papers, to see what info they've gathered on the people running for office. The big offices are kind of inescapable on the news and in the ads. And some of the smaller races sometimes also have print ads in magazines or papers I frequently pick up, and those are useful. Sometimes ads from an organization I trust or support give a rundown of who they recommend, and that's a place to start.
But to be sure I'm not putting a creationist or a gay basher in charge of children or defendants in a court, I tend to do a little more digging.
As a son of two ordained ministers, I feel bad that religion has become such a convenient whipping boy in the political process, and essentially ends up being shorthand for "crazy" for some people. Still, when a candidate for judge says things like a judge should "fear God and serve the people," I start to wonder myself. On the surface, it seems like a perfectly legitimate statement. Shouldn't make me nervous. But since a lot of people lately tend to use God as a bludgeon to separate people into groups of "like me" or "not like me," "good" or "bad," I think I'd prefer my judge to stick to the laws on the books - are they just or unjust, fair or unfair, being applied consistently, or not. Obviously one's beliefs influence those kind of calls. And they still make people put their hand on a Bible and swear an oath before they give testimony. I get that. I take my religious beliefs into the voting booth with me. Can't help it. Part of who I am. But if I'm honest, I'm more comfortable if a judge keeps God out of it. That goes for any candidate. I'm looking to see if I think they can do the job. Do they have the background, education, experience? Do they seem like a good, fair-minded person, whether they believe the things I do or not? Do I feel like power is well-invested in this person's hands?
I'd nearly finished my "homework assignment" to myself when I ran across a contested race in Soil and Water Supervisors. One of the candidate profiles in particular caught my attention. The profiles on this one site have a section where they can make a statement under the heading "Most Important Issue." So, for Soil and Water Supervisor, this candidate decided to lead off with the following (his spelling and punctuation, by the way, not my doing. Earlier, he misspelled college as collage, first red flag, though an honest mistake). So. Soil and Water. Most Important Issue...
"I strongly agree that a marriage should be only between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of same sex marriages."
(Um, OK. What the heck does that have to do with soil and water?)
"I strongly agree that all MN residence should have affordable health insurance. even if it means new or added cost to businesses."
"I strongly agree that we dont need anymore increase in taxes, we are all ready being taxed to death."
(Same note, though I suppose some of those taxes will go to soil and water)
"I strongly agree that an increase of funding should be put towards educating our children in grade k - 12."
"I strongly agree funding should be allocated toward natural resources conservation."
(Ah, soil and water. There you are!)
Now, this guy had run unsuccessfully in the past for state senator and for mayor (twice), so maybe he was just getting it out of his system, but seriously...?
Gay marriage? Really?
I mean, thank you. You made it ridiculously easy to decide, "OK, anybody but this guy." But wow.
By all means vote.
You can find your polling place at any number of websites like here and here, and many candidate and political party websites, as well as newspaper websites, have handy "find your polling place" functions - just give them a zip code and street number and off you go.
We have same day registration if need be, just read up on what you'll need to bring with you (aside from a book to read or movie to watch or music to listen to on your headphones - the lines will be long, folks, but worth the wait).
Just make sure you know what you're getting into.
And again I say, please Vote.
We only get one shot every four years to choose the next leader of the free world. Don't waste it. People bled and died so we wouldn't have to. The transfer of power in this country is staggeringly smooth compared to dozens of other places all over the planet. Seems obscene not to do all you can.