Before I head to the ballot box, I wanted to make sure that I was prepared to make my choices. Millions of dollars have been spent on this mid-term election and I feel like I have been inundated with ads for all of the major positions (x 3 since I live at the intersection of three states). But when I printed a sample ballot, I discovered an entire page of positions that I have heard absolutely nothing about.

We are voting for two county Soil and Water District commissioners and five county Agricultural Extension Council members as well as whether or not to retain seven judges. I had never heard of these people, so I Googled them, looked on LinkedIn and checked Facebook – only to find surprisingly little. Finally, I found a Facebook group an environmentally-forward state representative had created to post statements from the conservation candidates and the university that hosts the extension collected paragraphs about the council elections. I still know next to nothing about the judges.

Why should this be so hard?

I would guess that the vast majority of voters go to cast their ballot thinking that they know the names and positions that will be on it. Many are likely not informed about even those candidates, beyond whether they are Republican or Democrat, but they can’t even rely on that distinction on page 2 of the ballot. It becomes either a total guessing game or they forfeit their vote and leave the back side blank.

With the importance of elections, why isn’t there a standard system whereby everyone can easily check an interactive ballot that allows you to click on the names of all the candidates to read a statement about them? It may be self-written and pure propaganda, but at least the voters would know something about those they are endorsing or de facto voting out. The big push to get everyone to vote is meaningless if people don’t know who they are voting for.

It’s likely that your election officials aren’t going to make it easy for you to be an informed voter. Make the effort to be one anyway.

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