Typically in this column, we discuss business topics, community happenings and ways to help local businesses. However, I also try to keep you informed on anything that can affect business in our region, and our upcoming elections will certainly do that. Over the next several weeks I’ll help you start to dive into the 2020 election. I won’t try to persuade you to vote for or against any particular candidate or referendum in these columns, but rather give you some insight on how you can do the research that you’ll need to become a well-informed voter.

This week I want to dive into two key topics, for your consideration: why you need to start researching now and why it’s important to make an issue priority list for candidates.

Why Start Researching Now When the Election is Nov. 3?

Most national surveys find that typically adults don’t begin paying attention to the elections until Labor Day, and others don’t really engage until October. Yet 2020 has broken all norms. Nightly news programs are surging in viewership as many Americans are tracking the latest updates on coronavirus, protests and so much more. This renewed engagement gives us the first reason why you should start focusing on the elections now: because we see the direct daily impact these major issues have on our lives and our elected leaders will set the direction for how we address these issues in the future, both at a local and federal level.

Secondly, there is no guarantee we’ll have the time or energy to focus on the elections later this fall. School re-opening will undoubtedly be an adjustment for all businesses as employees will need to see how re-opening affects their family, from remote learning, to dropping off kids, to homeschooling, etc. Even for employees without school-age children, the adjustments their colleagues require, may affect them too. Additional to that, if the last two months are any indication, we cannot predict if another lockdown is coming, or if we will be back to normal sooner than expected- we just don’t know. Yet, if we assume this fall will likely upend even our best-laid plans, then starting early on all tasks becomes exceedingly wise.

Other reasons to start now include: less meet-the-candidate forums this fall due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions, less time in newscasts to focus on elections with other news dominating air time, and more people opting to vote early. The point is, it’s a good time to consider finding out about who and what you will be asked to vote on, so you don’t miss your chance to get informed.

Issue Priority List: Voting Based on What Matters To You

I believe in researching all candidates for federal and state/local office. I want to know, not only why I’m voting for a candidate but also, what the person I’m not voting for values. Not every candidate I vote for will win their election, so knowing what their opponent values helps me understand how they may vote as they represent me. Also, I like to speak intelligently to friends and family about why I value one candidate over another.

Here is how I like to evaluate candidates. I make an Issue Priority List. It’s easy to do. Simply, list out the 3-5 topics that are most important to your vote. Is education a priority for you? Healthcare costs? Gun ownership rights? Abortion? Judicial appointments? Climate change? COVID-19 economic recovery? Equal rights for people of all races, and genders? What matters the most to you?

The topics listed above are just suggestions to get you thinking, and not even necessarily topics on my own list. Whatever your lists is, it’s great. I won’t judge you, it’s not my list- it’s yours. You don’t have to share it either- this is all about what you value. Just be honest with yourself when making the list. What matters to you and your family? What could make your life easier or better? What does your community need? Try to pick at least one issue that will have great impact for those in your community.

Once you finish your Issue Priority List, research where each candidate- including those you think you may oppose- stands on these topics that matter to you. You may surprise yourself with who you match up with.

Here’s my favorite part about making the issue priority list.

One thing that happens in many major campaigns is political action committees (PACs) get involved and create ads to try and tell you what issues they want you to care about. These PACs use aggressive language to try and persuade you to care about something that is typically a divisive subject. For example, in the Collins-Gideon race there are numerous opposing PAC ads about how Speaker of the House Gideon responded to claims of sexual misconduct made against fellow legislator Dillon Bates.

But ask yourself this: Is this a topic that was on your Issue Priority List? Is how Sara Gideon did or did not respond to sexual misconduct allegations against a legislative colleague any more or less significant then how Sen. Collins did or did not respond to sexual misconduct allegations against one of her legislative colleagues- (for instance, Roy Moore)? Maybe this issue was on your list, and maybe it wasn’t- only you know that. However, if you first make an Issue Priority List of what is important to you, and research the candidate views on the subjects you care about, then your vote is less likely to be swayed by what a PAC ad says.

A Preview of Part II: How To Find Information and Avoid Disinformation

How do you avoid disinformation? What’s true, and what’s not? What’s the best source? I’ll run through some of the tips I use, next week.

Lastly, politics are sensitive to talk about- I hope this series is as unbiased as I intend it to be.

Cory King is the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: