This Tuesday is Election Day in the United States. Thousands of U.S. citizens will turn out to vote as part of their right. Here are some things you should know beforehand to cast your vote in good conscience and make it count.
Before You Vote
Your vote is your voice—your chance to represent yourself in local, state, and federal elections. The candidates and causes you believe in cannot be guaranteed success without your vote. But before you go to the polls, here are some things to consider:
If you aren’t registered to vote already, there might still be time! In many states, voters must register 30 days before an election, but not all states have this requirement. Call your county clerk’s office to find out if you still have time, and how to register. Or, register online at websites like ourtime.org (which also includes a handy illustration of the states where you can still register) or rockthevote.com.
You can’t choose the best candidate if you can’t make an educated vote. Don’t depend on other people to explain the issues to you, or tell you which candidate believes what. Find out for yourself.
In your mind, what are the major issues your country faces? What issues is each candidate emphasizing? And what solutions are each offering? In addition to their positions, consider the character of the candidates. Ask yourself questions like, “Why do I trust one candidate more than another? What are their perceived strengths and weaknesses? And who do they associate with?”
Websites like ontheissues.org provide detailed voting records of many U.S. politicians. In addition, both presidential candidates (and most politicians) have their own websites where they state their positions on a number of important issues. Check out barackobama.com/issues and mittromney.com/issues to learn more about the presidential candidates.
Keep Emotions in Check
Studies show that emotions heavily impact most voting decisions. Try to set emotions aside as you watch campaign ads, and don’t get sucked in with catchy slogans. Also consider if you’re voting for a candidate because of one specific issue. Is that the only reason? Or do you share his or her overall vision for your country and community?
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a presidential election, but don’t forget the state and local elections. Your involvement will have the greatest impact on your local community as you campaign for city council members, school board members, and other local officials. Better yet, become a candidate yourself. The surest way to improve the political system is for good, honest people to enter the race and raise the standards for politicians.
The ballot is our connection to our country’s political process. It provides us with a way to express to our leaders what we think about a number of important issues that affect not only our lives, but the lives of future generations. Voting also serves to protect our freedoms—a democracy can’t survive unless its citizens participate in the political process. So go to the polls, let your voice be heard, and leave your own mark on history, wherever you live.
These last two things are just good information for any voter (especially any LDS voter):
U.S. Voting Stats
Even with the historic nature of this November’s presidential election, voter turnout may not be as high as one might expect, if you use history as a predictor. For example, in 1960, 63 percent of eligible citizens voted. According to the Federal Election Commission, by 1996 that number had dropped to 49 percent; however, voter turnout has been slowly increasing in the last several elections. For the 2008 elections was the highest in recent history at 61 percent - spurred at least partly by it being the first election with a non-white presidential candidate.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages its member to participate in the civil process and vote - another reason to try and be part of that 60-or-so percent of citizens to make it to the polls.
The Church and Political Neutrality
Coupled with the belief in the importance of civic responsibility comes the Church’s longstanding policy of political neutrality. On lds.org it reads, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics. This applies in all of the many nations in which it is established.”
To illustrate this point, President Harold B. Lee recounted a meeting he had with a president of the United States (he didn’t disclose which one) in which he “assured him that no matter what his name or his political party, we [the Church] were frequently on our knees, praying God that he and the leaders of this nation and of the world would bring us through the crises of the present” (Ensign, July 1972, 29).