Our democratic process is the best in the world, yet it does not come without flaws.
Flaws are inherent in a system that insists it is our democratic responsibility to vote but doesn't stress the need for researching the candidates. It would be preferable that uninformed voters find another way to spend the ten minutes it takes to vote - like, go get an ice cream cone or call a friend on the phone. It isn't that we want to take away anyone's right to vote, voting is a right and a privilege, however, unless we vote for someone we truly believe in, what is accomplished? It is possible to give your vote to an unqualified person if you choose to vote based upon who had the most signs or many of the other reasons people choose their candidate.
What are the many reasons a person may vote for a candidate?
Voting for a woman.
Don't vote for someone because she is the only female running. We need diversity in our leaders, but voting for someone just because she is a woman is not the right reason. You don't know her. She might be the kind of woman who seeks men's approval and therefore will never dare to disagree with them. Get to know her; who she is and what she stands for and if you agree and believe she will do a good job, then vote for her. By the way, who said men can't be sensitive to women's issues? They can and many are. [This logic is the same for any candidate - Get to know them. Don't vote for the gender, the color, the nationality - vote for the person.]
Voting for someone because they are professional-looking.
Remember the saying, "Clothes do not make the person." With this vote you could still be getting an unscrupulous person. A well-dressed man or woman only means they have good taste in clothing. Not all good-looking people are qualified to watch over and make critical decisions regarding our countryand people. Unfortunately, they may also judge others by how they dress and that is not how one should judge the quality of others.
Voting for a business owner.
If you think that because a candidate owns their own business they might be able to financially help your district, you must remember that governments are not run like a business. They are much more complex. People are not commodities and products. They are human beings with needs and emotions. In the case of school boards, you cannot fire (expel) them simply because they do not fit your ideal. In a business, if someone doesn't produce, they are "out the door." They can find another job somewhere else. Schools do not have that option, they are instructed to teach all levels of intellect and attitude. Another sad note: Because of the strength of the teachers' union, schools have even greater difficulty firing "bad" teachers then expelling a student.
Voting for someone who has been endorsed by others.
Now this one is sort of insulting. Are we not intelligent enough to make up our own minds? If a company requires suits and dresses in their dress code, it is unlikely that they would endorse anyone who didn't model their dress code. A Christian endorsement might require a candidate to support "the right to life." A woman's group might require the opposite. I'd also be concerned if the endorsement came from the teacher's union. A school board member is not supposed to represent the teachers, a board member represents the students, parents and taxpayers. Endorsements should stop and portfolios of each candidate should be available. The portfolio should include phone numbers and addresses so a voter can talk to the candidates. Also, forums are another way to inform the public of the candidate's platform and character. Forums should be publicized well in advance and open to the public. Candidates should be required to attend or at the very least have their information available.
Voting for someone who is defending their own agenda.
This candidate may have decided to run because they were unhappy with a decision the previous board made. With this candidate, you might get stuck with someone who isn't in for the long haul. As soon as their issue is amended to their satisfaction, what will motivate them to fulfill the remaining years of obligations as a board member? Their ambivalence may show up whenever a board action doesn't affect them or their family personally.
Voting for someone who is great friends with people in high places [or in the case of school, the teachers.]
Will this candidate do justice to the real people they are supposed to respresent ...namely, the taxpayers [and the students]? It is okay to be friends with important people [and/or teachers], as a whole, they are a great bunch of people. However, having someone represent you who spends the majority of their time only with the campaign contributors and supporters [and/or teachers] may unknowingly bring a bias in their board contributions and decisions. Unless they associate with others how would they know what the taxpayers and students need and want?
Voting for a popular person.
Be wary of people who run because they like to be in the limelight. They seek power and recognition. They may have been the football heroes and cheerleaders of the past, or they may be someone who was ostracized and has a point to prove. Can they truly put the past behind them and do what is best for the people? Some of them, yes. Some of them, no.
Voting for a group of candidates running together.
To vote for a group of people, such as "vote the top two" or "vote the final four" serves to enhance all those candidates' ability to get elected. But does it contributes to "owing favors" to the others. Would they be expected to think alike and vote alike in repayment? Why bother voting for four if they all think alike? It is like getting four little carbon copies - how boring, how insulting, how detrimental. We need independent thinkers who are not afraid of a little discussion.
Voting for someone who has children who are academically or athletically "at the top."
This applies to school boards. This is a hard one. Do not disregard anyone who has highly successful children. Some can be very fair in their decision-making. However, pay close attention as to whether they feel superior to other parents. Many take the credit for their child's success and therefore expect that all children would be successful if they had parents such as they. They go on and on about how great their child is and lean heavily on supporting only excellerated and honors classes, neglecting the majority of students who perform in the mid-academic range. They may not have the compassion and understanding needed for students who are underachievers or those with lesser abilities. This same argument applies to those who have children who excel in athletic endeavors. Make sure their primary focus is not the athletic department.
So, now that I have covered who we shouldn't vote for and why, I will cover the qualities we should look for in a representative.
Look for someone who will listen to you if you have a concern.
They should explain to you whether your request has merit and why. Perhaps you have disagreed with a decision they have made. They should share their thought process without violating anyr executive session's "gag order". There may be more to an issue than they can share. You need to be assured that they did not come to their decision lightly.
Check on their previous political involvement.
There may be candidates who have been involved quietly in community or school committees and teams for some time. Their continued and long-term involvement should hold an advantage over the typical candidate who just came aboard in the last two months before the election. They have shown enough interest in the community or school to give up their free time to effect changes and understand the procedures. In an area or school district there are numerous committees and teams, as well as volunteer work one can do, besides just athletics. Certainly someone who has already given up their free time is dedicated and would be in for the long haul.
Strive to choose someone who has high ethics and morals.
Choose someone who displays good moral character in their personal as well as public life. A candidate will be a representation of the area and the district as well as an example to constituents and students. Choose someone who takes this [often non-paying or little paying] time-consuming calling serious enough to give credence to everything brought before them; someone who studies and learns the policies and procedures of the political process. Choose someone who can remember who they represent - the consituents and the taxpayers of the district [parents, the students - if school board position].
Pay attention to signs and posters.
But also pay attention if some were in a location and are suddenly missing, while others remain. [If they are all missing it usually indicates that the police department has removed them.] However, if only one or two candidates signs end up missing, it usually indicates michieviousness or downright sabotage by opposing candidates [or their supporters.] Carefully consider whether you want to vote for someone with those kinds of unscrupulous and unethical behaviors [or friends]. Signs are expensive and cannot be replaced easily because of the long waiting period for printing. This malicious behavior could considerably change the outcome of an election.
Understand the ballot card.
The ballot card also creates confusion. Instead of letting the voter know that you can vote for less than the number of candidates asked for, it just says "Vote for Four." Do most voters know that means you can vote for one, two, three or four candidates? I don't think so. Voters are concerned that if they do not vote for four their ballot will be invalid. Always ask the attendants and then vote for only those you really want to win. This ensures you are not increasing the numbers on the other candidates that you have no confidence in. There are times that a different candidate would win if this rule were known. And punch your selection completely. A dangling or pregnant chad may not be read by the machines and your vote would be invalid.
Before you cast your vote, you must research thoroughly the candidates and only then can you determine who you would choose to represent you and your interests over the next three to four years. Voting for someone for the wrong reason could result in excess expenditures as well as decisions being made without consideration of the constituents. My advice - vote wisely or don't vote!
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