Stop, Think, Do your Research, Then Vote

With the upcoming United States 2016 Presidential Election (November 8), it’s time to think about voting.  This election is very important to getting our country back on track.  I don’t plan to tell you who to vote for, but I do plan to tell you how you should vote!


Image from Pixbay

While I have chosen to focus my blog on libraries, archives, and history, there are times I cannot ignore what my undergraduate minor was.  That minor is in political science.  Political science is not the same thing as politics.  Political scientists study the behaviors of voters and politicians and the outcomes of legislative processes.  Thus, while the mentioned election and its candidates will be used as examples, what I plan to illustrate is universal.  Any voter from any country will benefit from this reminder.

With these facts in mind, let’s look at how many vote.  These days there are certain hot-button issues that tend to sway voters to vote for a particular candidate or support a particular party based solely on that issue.  Abortion, gun control, healthcare, and racial/religious issues are the main ones in the United States.

What voters need to remember is that candidates support more than just one issue.  Candidates are a package deal.  They have views and ideas on multiple issues.  What if you agree with a candidate on a hot-button issue but disagree with them on every other issue?  Does this benefit you?  No, because it could lead to policies that could cause you more frustration in the long run.  After all, which is really more important: abortion or social security’s future?  Gun control or the rescuing the economy?  Access to health insurance or possible medical bankruptcy?  What issues directly affect you?  Answer that question, and focus on those issues.

All I ask of voters is to examine your values and beliefs.  All of them; not just one or two.  Pick the candidate that best fits all of your values.  Don’t be a one issue voter or vote based on party loyalty.  Don’t vote for someone  because your organization(s) or religious institution tells you to.  Don’t even rely on the media; do some research on how candidates have voted and supported issues in the past.  For those who have not yet held an elected office, dig into their past using available resources.  Look at candidates websites and understand their current political platform.  Stop, think, do your research, then vote.  You might be surprised at what you discover.

One tool you might choose to use to decode your valued is  This questionnaire not only presents the Democrat and Republican views for consideration, but also those of the Libertarian and Green parties.  All the major issues the upcoming election is focused on are addressed.  The website is not affiliated with any political party or candidate and is bipartisan.  I also have included a list of useful online resources at the end of this post.

Likewise, remember presidential and gubernatorial candidates can make the people many promises during their campaigns but they are not the ones that have the power to ensure those promises are carried out.  That is up to Congress and the state legislatures. The legislative branches are the lawmakers.  Presidents and governors can only veto or sign into law what the legislatures approve; the executives may or may not have much influence on the lawmaking process.  And with an increasingly divided Congress, expect more debate and deadlocks before any laws are approved.  What our country needs is more political moderates from both parties and/or third-party candidates and fewer political extremists.  This will allow compromises to be more easily reached and allow the issues affecting our nation to be truly addressed.  These moderating groups create a balance in our political system that allows it to address the real needs of the people instead of endless debate.

So with just under a month until the election, take the opportunity to do your research.

Did I open you eyes to make you a better voter?  Had you considered the fact executive-level candidates are not the lawmakers they promise to be?  Did you realize just how divided our country is?  Also, if you chose, share your thoughts and/or results after taking the questionnaire here and share this post or its ideas with other voters.

Sites of the American Presidential Candidates:

Sites for Candidates’ Voting Records:

I’ve linked to the general sites unless notes otherwise.  This allows you to also look at congressional candidates too.

  • United States Senate Voting Records (check per year, then it is divided by issue)
    • People to check:  Hilary Clinton (D), Tim Kaine (D).
  • United States House of Representatives Voting Records(check per year, then it is divided by roll call, then by issue)
    • People to check:  Mike Pence (R).
  • Gary Johnson (L) and William Weld (L) have serves as governor in their respective states, but never in a legislature.
  • Donald Trump (R), Jill Stein (G), and Ajamu Baraka (G) have not served in any elected roles.

Other Resources:

  • Commission on Presidential Debates:  Check here for transcripts and videos from the debates.
  • Project Vote Smart:  Check here for facts on candidates and issues.  This site is non-partisan.
  •  Thier mission is to provide a “nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players…”

Further Reading/Sources:

Most of my background for this post came for the Legislative Process course I took with Dr. Russell Renka at Southeast Missouri State University. These were the textbooks for the Legislative Processes class:

  1. Stewart, Charles III. 2001. Analyzing Congress. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
  2. Dodd, Lawrence C. and Bruce I. Oppenheimer, eds. 2009. Congress Reconsidered, 9th ed. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press.
  3. Jacobson, Gary C. 2008. The Politics of Congressional Elections, 7th ed. New York: Longman Classics in Political Science.

2 thoughts on “Stop, Think, Do your Research, Then Vote

  1. Great work on this. Your links make it easy for people to actually do the research you ask of them! You might also be interested in some of the work I did on my recent sabbatical at and I talk about how politics influence information (and vice-versa) as well as different kinds of cognitive biases. Hope it’s useful to you. –Todd

    PS. Let me know if you are open to my reblogging this, with full credit to you of course!

    • Thank you Todd! It is my hope that this post does encourage fellow American citizens to use the provided resources.

      And thank you for sharing the links to your website. I glanced over them briefly just now, but I will have to look in greater detail later. I does look like you have crafted a great learning resource.

      As for reblogging, will that be as part of your or Just wondering as reblogging to the latter is easy, but the former seems to tend more towards a link.

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