Today I don't teach. I have a ton of grading to do, but it's flexible, so I decided to do my political research and go vote (it's legal in my state to vote ahead of time, and encouraged, even).
Where I grew up, before each election, the Secretary of State (for the state) sent out a voter information pamphlet on cheap newspaper quality paper. In the pamphlet, each person running for an office could make a short statement. And for each of the voting decisions, there was a short explanation (in pretty neutral language), and then a short pro and con statement, written by someone who was identified, and then a short list of organizations that supported the statement.
So, for example, if there was a bond issue up for a vote, you'd see a description about how much was to be raised and what it would be used for. And then there would be a statement by someone who supported the issue, maybe a state legislator, or a school board official (for school building bonds). And then a short statement by someone opposed (sometimes there wasn't an opposing statement, but a blank space).
The pamphlets made it easy to spend an evening reading up on local bond stuff and such, and to form at least a minimally educated decision.
I was shocked when I moved to a new state to learn that it didn't send out an information pamphlet. And here? Here, there's no such thing, either. The political ads for local officials tend to talk about how Joe Schmo has lived in NW since birth, is married with four children, and loves the community. What does that mean that has anything to do with political decision making? (And the anti-ads tend to talk about how the opposing person has only lived in the area for 10 years, and thus doesn't understand anything. UGH.)
So I spent my morning trying to read up on the ballot information. I looked at websites for my party and even the other party. Both are focused pretty much exclusively on the presidential race. But I want information about my local legislators, about the County Clerk race and such.
I called my party headquarters, and they were sadly useless. People, I'm giving you a chance to say, "We support person X for this position, and here's why" and you send me to the city site?
The city site is great if you want to find out how to register or vote early, but doesn't give sample ballots or anything.
I finally called the city, and the person gave me the web address for a state government site, and after about 15 minutes of exploring, I found a way to find a sample local ballot, and voila, I was able to use that to find other information.
It shouldn't be that hard. We really need to make information way more accessible.
But then, I wonder, given the budget crisis in the state where I grew up, if they spend the money to send out the pamphlets anymore?