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K-State Today

October 12, 2020

5 ways to make the most of your vote

Submitted by Cailin Riley

Are you ready to vote? With the Kansas voter registration deadline on Oct. 13, you could cast your ballot as soon as Oct. 14. If you still need to register to vote, K-State librarians recommend the site, How to Vote in Three Steps, from K-State's Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy.  

Once you have registered to vote, K-State librarians recommend setting aside some time to research the candidates and issues that will be on the ballot. In addition to your state's elections office, several websites let you preview your ballot and learn about the candidates. This can be especially helpful at the local level, as many candidates and local issues might not be widely known. 

"Until I learned how to find my ballot ahead of time, I was always caught off guard in the voting booth when I'd see judges or a tax issue," said Sara K. Kearns, professor and academic services librarian with K-State Libraries. "By doing some more research beforehand, I've been able to become a more confident voter." 

1. Preview your ballot 

In Kansas, the secretary of state provides the Kansas Ballot Tracker for residents to see an official preview of their ballot. 

Several nonpartisan websites, including the three below, use your address to create a sample ballot and compile information about candidates, their voting records, issue statements, endorsements and sources of funding. 

Another site, Vote Smart, does not provide your example ballot but will retrieve candidates and non-elected government officials based on your address.  

2. Research candidates and issues 

Candidates at the state and national levels can be easily researched using the same nonpartisan websites that offer the ballot previews. They are also heavily covered in local, national and even international news. You can learn about candidates at the county or city level by using a mix of news, local government websites, candidate forums and even social media.  

Local news outlets are more likely to provide coverage of local candidates. In addition, local governments are usually required to post agendas and meeting minutes in a public forum — reading these can provide insight on currently elected officials and candidates who appear as attendees. Candidate forums hosted by local news outlets or organizations can also be informative. For example, the League of Women Voters of Riley County is hosting an online candidate forum on Oct. 18 via Facebook.  

Social media, while not a reliable source of news, can be a great way to keep up-to-date on candidate speaking events and see how they interact with voters.

3. Find out how campaigns are funded 

Candidates are not the only people courting your vote. If you read the fine print on flyers or the bottom of the screen on the political ads, you may notice that a candidate's campaign might be supported by an external organization. Learn more about who is funding candidates by exploring campaign finance data. By law, candidates and organizations file information about their donors and spending with the Federal Elections Commission for federal candidates, and the Kansas secretary of state, in Kansas.

4. Take notes 

Bringing notes with you to the polls can be a helpful way to remember all the important information you learn. According to USA.gov's Voter Research site, you can bring in written notes to the polls.

5. Be sure to vote! 

Doing the research beforehand can help you vote based on facts and your personal values. But don't forget the most important step — showing up to the polls! 

"Your vote matters," Kearns said. "The more someone tells you that your vote doesn't matter, the more you should believe the opposite. People don't try to dissuade you if your vote does not make a difference." 

For more information and sources, including finding links to voter information in other states, check out the voting page on the Libraries' Breaking Your News Bubble guide