This election cycle, it seems everyone has assumed the role of fact-checker, which is great. As a political researcher myself, I have a certain fondness for the facts. Beyond slamming the opponent when they lie, I believe that the more we know about who's telling the truth and who is not, the more empowered people are to control their democracy and their own destiny. Here’s just a few examples of some facts I think are important for voters to know:
If you live in Iowa’s 5th Congressional District and you get raped by your father, your Congressman would grant your rapist father the power of parental consent, allowing him to decide which medical treatment you can and cannot receive. (Yes, you can get pregnant from rape, despite what Congressman Akin may think.)
If you live in Pennsylvania and you don’t have ID, under the state’s new voter ID law, you won't be able to vote because Republicans are purposefully making it harder for you exercise your most basic right.
So you may think that you have cruised through life unscathed by extremist policies, but I guarantee that candidates’ policy positions affect you, your roommate, your mom, and your hairdresser. If we can’t exercise our right and weigh in on who will represent us, our future will be shaped by the policymakers with the most money and the most extreme views.
At the Democratic National Convention, we heard every other speaker tell us to log on to gottavote.org and register to vote on November 6, an request notably absent at the Republican convention. Registering and voting are critical but unfortunately not enough. You not only have to register and vote, but your choice must be an informed one. On the same ballot that you will select the next President of the United States, you will also choose your next Representative, Senator, Governor, and for some, local representatives. History has proven that these votes matter. Luckily there are resources available. OntheIssues and ProjectVoteSmart allow you to see candidate’s records on the issues that matter to you.
So when you enter the polling booth on November 6, don’t stop at the top. Know whom you are voting for and know why. Vote for people you agree with and who tell the truth. If you don’t complete a full ballot this November you cannot complain in 2013 or in 2040 about the state of our country. The policies of today will shape the America of our future. Change is up to us.