If you are registered to vote for this year’s election, chances are that you have already received your sample ballot. Inside the sample ballot are a few familiar names and races. The presidential race is obviously the big ticket, and probably why you registered in the first place. Besides that, however, are dozens of other races to vote on—full of names and offices you may have never heard of. Looking at this list can be quite daunting, and trying to figure out which candidate you want to support in each race is not an easy task. Luckily, there are more resources than you may expect to help you learn about these elections. Let’s go through some questions voters might have and discuss some of the best places to turn to when learning about the election.
So, uh, what is a sample ballot? Why didn’t I get one? I forgot there was an election?
Before you start worrying about who to vote for, you need to know what races are even occurring. The sample ballot lets you take notes about who you plan to vote for, which you can bring into the voting booth on election day so you don’t forget. There are TONS of preliminary resources on your county’s election department website:
- In Washoe County? You can find election info here
- In Clark County? You can find election info here
- You can also look at the races on your sample ballot by using Ballotpedia’s Nevada Sample Ballot.
I only care about the presidential race, how do I learn about the candidates?
For starters, I highly suggest you get involved in state and local elections, since they are some of the races that will directly affect you the most. However, if you really only care about the top race, there are a few things you should know. For starters, the Independent American Party on your ballot is NOT the national independent party you might be familiar with, and you should definitely look into their positions before you mark them down because you consider yourself an independent.
Beyond that, if you haven’t heard about Donald Trump and Joe Biden yet, I envy you, and every American media outlet has thousands of articles written about them at this point. However, one of the most overlooked sources of information about this race is sitting in plain site: the candidates websites. Both Biden and Trump have extensive pages about where they stand on the issues that provide much more condensed and extensive information than the debates or many news articles do.
What about literally everybody else?
Here’s where things get tough. For the candidate running for the House of Representatives in your district, along with the candidates for State Senate and Assembly, the ballot will show their partisan identification. For most voters, this is probably all you need to know. For those on the fence about which party they support—and in the cases with all of the non-partisan judicial races—more information is needed to decide which candidate best reflects what a voter wants.
- Ballotpedia is basically Wikipedia for elections, and will provide all of the basic information about most of the candidates running. For some races, this can be an extensive source of information, and many candidates have even filled out questionnaires with Ballotpedia about their views.
- Opensecrets is a resource you can use to track the finances of the congressional and presidential candidates if you think a candidate’s donors might influence your support for them.
Beyond that, some of the best sources for information on the candidates are local media sources:
- For Reno voters, the Reno Gazette Journal is publishing opinion articles from the candidates themselves, along with their candidate and ballot question guide.
- For Southern Nevada voters, the Las Vegas Review Journal has an interactive ballot that will provide you with information on the candidates as you work through it (This program also works for voters in other parts of Nevada, but I found that they had less information available for local races outside of Southern Nevada).
- The Nevada Current’s election guide has “deliberately focused on down-ballot and especially non-partisan races,” which makes it worth exploring for additional information about all of the judges you’ve never heard of.
- Similarly, the Nevada Independent’s election 2020 guide is one of the best sources for compiling information about all of the races on the ballot, and should definitely be checked out no matter where you reside in the state.
Between all of these sources, you should have more than enough information to make informed decisions about even the most obscure races on this year’s ballot.
Vincent Rendon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @VinceSagebrush.