Before You Vote, Don’t Forget to Look Up Your School Board Candidates and Ballot Initiatives

We’re almost, almost through this election cycle. At this point, all that’s left to do is go and vote. Please vote. Please, please, please go vote. Go vote now, if you can. We’re all busy, but nobody wants to be the person who gets embarrassed and quiet every time she remembers that she whiffed this one and didn’t actually go fill out her ballot. So please go vote, but before you vote it’s important to look up the candidates running for local office in your district, and any ballot measures you might be asked to vote on.

While you probably know which presidential candidate you support–because seriously, who is still an undecided voter at this point?–there are a lot more positions to vote on than just president. And even if you choose to vote straight ticket, that won’t necessarily cover your local officials. But city council members, school boards, and judges are very important to your kids, your schools, and your daily life, and it’s worth your time to look them up before election day.

Looking up school board candidates can seem futile. I found six people running for three seats in my district, and at first glance they all looked identical. Reading interviews on their campaign platforms, it was all like, “Blah blah, transparency, blah blah, budget, blah blah kids first, blah blah education.” It all sounded like they were just saying the same things.

But then, three paragraphs into a long-winded answer about promoting budget transparency, one of my prospective school board members launched into a transphobic tirade that made my decision for me real fast.

“Well I know who I’m not voting for!” I said, very glad I’d decided to read up on my school board candidates before going to the polls.

If you care about support for LGBT students and kids with special needs, you’ll want to read up on the positions of your candidates for school board to make sure you pick a representative whose positions you support. School boards have more power than one might expect. They’re the ones who vote on things like giving free condoms to students and arming school custodians with guns. It’s easier to vote in the ones you want now than to fight them in six months when it turns out they advocate for positions you find abhorrent.

Also look up your city council candidates and any judges up for reelection. You want to elect a Leslie Knope, not a Councilman Jamm. If you have a friend that you trust that works in the legal system in your area, that could be a good person to ask for advice about your judges, because they probably have very strong opinions about the judges in your area.

Finally, look up any ballot measures you might be asked to vote on, because these can be tricky or worded in misleading ways, but they’re important. I had two about hunting and one that directly affects public school funding in my city. There’s not a lot of info written on the ballot, so finding out what the initiatives mean before you actually get in the booth is key.

Go vote! Get your sticker.

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