Politicians work for us. Just like you would do before you hire anyone, you should do your research. Learn all you can about each candidate before you decide on the person you want to hire.
As responsible participants in this democracy, we need to do our due diligence. Researching the candidates is not a huge investment of time, but it is a minimum necessary to operate as an effective citizen.
You can find out who is running in your district by searching your address at Project Vote Smart. They'll tell you your candidates all the way down to Board of Education members and will also let you know if there are any ballot initiatives in this election. You can even use this resource to find out when the next election is, so you can vote on time!
Once you know who the candidates are, you can learn a little more about them through Project Vote Smart, but you should also check out their websites and Facebook pages. Find out where they stand on the issues you care about most. If they're incumbents, Project Vote Smart can tell you how they've voted on past bills.
To find out how they're funding their campaigns, check their campaign finance reports at the Federal Election Commission, if they're federal candidates. If they're state candidates, check out the Secretary of State's website, where they post campaign finance reports. Colorado's is called TRACER. Also, check to see if they're on our list of candidates who don't take PAC money.
Another great research tool is google. Simply google the name and city/state of the candidate. Maybe they've written a letter to the editor in a local newspaper, maybe someone wrote an article or blog on them, maybe someone notorious endorsed them. These are all things you can learn simply by googling, and they might affect how you vote.
Finally, make sure you're registered to vote. Go to GottaVote.org to find out if you're registered and ready to vote. You can also get this info from the Secretary of State in your state. The requirements may be different depending on where you live. In Colorado, you can register online or by mailing, faxing, or hand-delivering a registration form. You can now register to vote through our site, thanks to Rock the Vote!
If you want to get even more involved in the election process, think about volunteering or contributing for a campaign. Visit your state legislature to speak with your representatives. Send them emails and letters, or give them a call. Testify at the legislature on an issue you're passionate about. Consider even, running for office yourself.
Remember: we are the boss in the situation. We have the power to hire and fire. We should not be too intimidated to participate in the process.