Op/Ed

Editorial: The first step in voting is knowing the candidates

ANGELO LYNN

In today’s issue the staff at the Addison Independent spent hundreds of hours putting together this 70-page paper, which includes extensive reporting on the upcoming 2022 Election. We profile and report on 19 Vermont House and Senate candidates, plus 20-plus candidates running for statewide and congressional offices from the governor’s race to state auditor to U.S. House and Senate. 

We hope this coverage encourages area residents to do the first part of your civic duty: learning about the candidates applicable to each of your districts. The next two steps are to research more about the candidates in any race you remain undecided, and finally vote on or before Election Day, Nov. 8.

By now area residents should have received mail-in ballots and are aware of two state constitutional issues demanding your attention. Prop 5/Article 22 guarantees a woman’s right to choose and rejects the idea that the state or courts could dictate control of a person’s body. Proposal 2 amends the state constitution to clearly state that “slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.” Vote “yes” on both items.

As for the half dozen Vermont House and Senate races, and in the statewide races, it’s worth reading as many of the candidate’s answers (in their own words) to more than a half-dozen questions. Read them all, if you have the time. What you’ll notice are patterns of common thought and expression. Republicans generally hone to a certain line of thinking on the various issues (less government regulation, an unwillingness to spend money of programs to help the poor, but also a reluctance to tax the wealthiest among us while also complaining about a growing national debt.) On the other hand, some Democrats are prone to embrace every program without regard to spending. Teasing through the fine points of those arguments and watching for the nuances each candidate brings to the table is what makes it interesting — and educational. Reading through the candidates’ answers is a way to see both sides of each question articulated differently by each — which brings the issues into clearer focus for voters.

In the congressional races, you’ll see more partisan ideology as candidates repeat points that have little bearing to the truth, some of which defy commonsense. But even in those revelations, one understands why so many Americans think as they do. For some, they’ve been fed — through television, social media, and other means — a diet of misinformation for so long, it’s become the only “truth” they know. It’s also interesting how many Independent candidates in this election hoe more to the conservative, conspiratorial, agenda. 

You’ll also see a lot of names of candidates running for governor, Congress or the Senate that you’ve never heard of before. One huge advantage of mailed ballots is voters now have the time to research those candidates (if they choose to) before casting their votes, as opposed to being surprised when going into a polling booth on Election Day. It’s not always easy, however, to find out what some candidates stand for, but two sources (for the statewide races) stand out: Seven Days and VtDigger. The election guide that Seven Days produced got almost every candidate to respond to a few questions and provide a brief bio. VtDigger’s questioning was more thorough, but they weren’t able to get many candidates to respond to the questions. Vermont Public also has an Election Guide online. And candidates usually have campaign websites for voters to peruse, though, again, not all do.

Finally, the Election Guide is not meant to read through, cover to cover, in one setting. It’s to glance through, read those candidate responses that most pertain to your own House and Senate districts, scan the statewide races (and do more research where needed), and then come back to it over the next several days to help you make more-informed choices.

There is a lot to digest and often you’re voting for a candidate (like in the Addison County Sheriff’s race) you may have had the opportunity to meet. When that’s the case, one tip is compare the candidates’ websites; look at their platforms (what they say they intend to do and hope to accomplish); question if that is realistic or just campaign gibberish; check their previous experience and backgrounds; read the letters and see if someone else whose opinion you respect has endorsed that candidate. Re-read their comments on the various issues in this voter guide and see what resonates with you — and then ask why.

If you find such scrutiny to be hard work, it is. Living in a democracy, even a representative democracy, requires its citizens to be knowledgeable voters if we are to have good government. Voters have to be able to sort through the lies and misinformation, the deliberate smears and falsehoods about certain candidates and the innuendoes (fair or not) that try to put a candidate in a bad light, and decide what data is most meaningful to help you make an informed choice.

Knowing this, it’s easy to see why so many Americans prefer “to go with their gut,” to follow leaders that appeal to their grievances and emotions rather than do the sometimes difficult analysis required. Not all decisions are tough, of course. Many are apparent as soon as you know whether a candidate supports policies you absolutely reject. The information is here to help you make those choices.

Thanks for reading, for caring and for voting. We’ll share some of our choices in next week’s Addison Independent.

Angelo Lynn

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