How to Judge a Candidate

Step 1: Ask yourself questions. What are you looking for? What community, state or national problems do you want people in government to address? What leadership qualities do you think make an effective elected official?

Step 2: Learn about the candidates. Find out which candidates are running in your area at VOTE411.org.

Step 3: Collect information about the candidates. Resources: direct mail letters and flyers; online, radio, and television ads; candidates' speeches and debates; online forums and town hall events.

Step 4: Evaluate candidates' positions on issues. In a local race, watch interviews with the candidates. For incumbents, check their voting records on issues that are important to you. What conclusions can you draw about their positions? Where do they stand on your priority issues?

Step 5: Learn about the candidates' leadership abilities. Look at the candidates' background and their experience. How prepared are they for the job? Observe the candidates' campaigns. Do they give speeches to different groups, even those groups that disagree with them? Review the campaign website, social media content, and materials. Watch for insights into candidates' personalities and leadership qualities.

Step 6: Learn how other people view the candidate. Seek the opinions of others who are affected differently by decisions of political leadership. Talk to people of diverse backgrounds and race. Get a list of endorsements from each of the candidates' campaign websites. Find out what these groups stand for and find out why they are endorsing this candidate. Look into campaign contributions. Do they use their own money or raise funds from a few wealthy donors?

Step 7: Evaluate your options. Which candidate's views do I agree with the most? Who ran the fairest campaign? Which candidate demonstrated the most knowledge? Which candidate has the leadership qualities I want?

Other Considerations: Candidates try to sell themselves to voters, but they can sometimes distort the truth. For example, they may use name-calling, trigger knee-jerk emotional reactions through phrases such as "Law and Order," pass the blame or deny responsibility, make unrealistic campaign promises, avoid answering direct questions, or stage video shots.

Source: How to Judge a Candidate
© League of Women Voters

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