Know thy self and thy candidates: election education
The idea of knowing oneself was esteemed by the ancient Greeks as the height of wisdom, and as the Nov. 6 election deadline quickly approaches, it’s time for voters to know their beliefs, values and their electoral candidates.
“You have to compare your values and thoughts to the [candidate’s] platform actionables and the mission of the platform,” said senior management major Logan Blackwell, chairman of the College Republicans of GC.
Platform actionables are the actions the candidate plans to take, including initiatives and legislations.
Steve Elliott-Gower, associate professor of political science and director of the Honors Program, cautions students against being caught up in the editorialization and polarization that some news sources—especially cable news—create.
“Students should understand where the information is coming from and understand the credibility of the sources,” Elliott-Gower said.
The most direct source for information on candidates’ platforms is their websites, usually found with a quick online search of the candidate’s name.
Both gubernatorial candidates list their platforms and goals by topic on their sites.
Trent Nicholas, president of Young Democrats of GC, a junior political science major, encourages student voters to find a topic they are interested in because he believes people are more inclined to be informed on issues they care about.
“If you spend enough time researching one policy, it will bring you into being more informed on other policies as well,” Nicholas said. “So find something that interests you, and get involved from there.”
Researching topics with strong political ramifications can lead students to sources well-regarded and informative like the Economist, Washington Post or New York Times.
GC students have unlimited access to the New York Times through their free GC subscription.
These sources have been covering some of the heated gubernatorial race in Georgia, but for more local information, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution offers closer coverage of the gubernatorial race and congressional races in the metro-Atlanta area, alongside profiles of candidates and editorials.
“If you want to be truly informed, avoid highly partisan sources, on both sides of the political spectrum,” Elliott-Gower said.
These partisan sources often employ mudslinging tactics, meaning campaigns or political action committees will attack a candidate’s character or personal life in an effort to deter voters from supporting them.
Understanding the nature of modern political campaigns can help young voters wade through a slew of vengeful advertisements.
“Students should be aware of and sensitive to politicians taking one another’s comments out of context or twisting their words,” Elliott-Gower said.
Other ways to fact-check information is to inquire into figures presented in advertisements or arguments.
Examining how the data was collected and by whom can lead to a better understand of the accuracy of the conclusion being presented. Scan to go to vote411.org
These tactics are often used in toss-up races.
However, there are many close races that are not being covered as heavily as the gubernatorial race or even congressional races.
“The big thing to remember is that you aren’t just voting for [governor],” said Ruby Zimmerman, president of the American Democracy Project and a political science/rhetoric major. “You are voting all the way down the ticket from lieutenant governor [to] secretary of state and commissioners, and all these positions are extremely vital. [Voters] are choosing who we want to run the state.”