Most voters in the United States know they don’t know everything about upcoming elections. A select few stay abreast of local, state, and federal issues, but for many people the slate of ballots each fall and the other periodic elections quarterly are a surprise with new proposals and candidates for public office. The key to voting effectively according to your goals and values is recognizing that this will likely always be the case and figuring out where to go when you need reliable information about issues pertinent to your next vote.

Moving Beyond Media Resources

Accessing neutral reporting that analyzes reliable source material like in-depth political polling is an important part of getting informed, but even the most careful analysis will have some standpoint bias. That’s why it’s also vital that you understand where to go for the basic facts like the text of new laws and state constitutional amendments that come up, the past histories and stated platforms of candidates for local office, and the professional history of judicial candidates.

For those resources, you can rely on the state government’s website for a lot of information and connections to other reliable resources like candidate websites for each candidate and official position statements. You’ll also want to look into local media sources for offices that aren’t going to have the wide appeal for national news coverage, because while the podcast you love for Supreme Court analysis might not want to talk about the local district attorney’s race, your hometown paper just might do it.

Learn To Cut Through Campaign Messaging

Messaging around political campaigns tends to rely on noise and shock value, so it’s no big surprise it’s light on information even when it’s accurate in the statements being made. When you have access to the right range of professional opinions, facts about the election’s consequences, and no-nonsense discussion of the effects of proposals, it’s a lot easier to know which choices you want to make when you get into the voting booth.