Factcheck Before You Vote

Guest Correspondence

Image courtesy Pixabay.

Well, it’s “silly season” again. That time once every two years when your mailbox will be filled with shiny brochures, TV ads will be running and, in recent years, you get more and more text messages telling you about the candidates running for office.

Candidates will be vying for your vote and since local government is the one closest to the people, I will focus on local elections— especially since this is also where you have the greatest opportunity to get to know the candidates and become knowledgeable about the issues.

There is nothing wrong with candidates getting information out to voters. This is how you run a race to get elected. I would say it’s the candidate’s job to inform voters regarding the reasons they are running for office, what they plan to accomplish if they are elected to office and even why they are a better choice than their opponent. They can also highlight issues their opponent may have that would affect your opinion and ultimately your vote. As long as they are honest and factual. That’s where things get messy.

Sometimes what a candidate (or Political Committees supporting candidates) may say about their opponent is misleading, taken out of context or even an outright falsehood.

Running for office is not easy and frankly, I think we should be grateful to those that take on this endeavor to represent us in our democracy. But we should also expect that they will handle themselves with integrity and honesty from the onset of the campaign through their time in office. It is easy to say the “campaign consultant” thought something was a good idea or as the candidate I can’t interact with a Political Committee, but the candidate sets the tone and the boundaries and ultimately the buck stops with them. If they want your vote, they owe you the respect to run a dignified campaign.

Let’s face facts. What I describe above is a perfect world scenario. We all know this is not happening all the time, so voters have responsibilities, too. Don’t take everything at face value. Do your research. Just like you read labels at the grocery store rather than falling for flashy marketing, do your research on candidates. The candidates’ consultants have done their research, and they know exactly what words, phrases and images will evoke the desired response from you. Don’ t fall for it.

Most candidates will get out in public and attend forums to speak to groups of voters. Make it a point to attend these forums to hear what the candidates have to say and ask them questions. If you get a piece of mail and you are skeptical, call the candidate or the opponent to factcheck the information. Contact information can be found on paperwork they filed with the Supervisor of Elections. 

Certainly, do not believe every text message you receive about a candidate’s opponent being endorsed by certain groups that cause you to be outraged. I remember this happening in a local race where a text message was sent saying certain national groups had endorsed a candidate and it was blatantly false. Pause for a moment when you receive these messages and ask yourself why this national group would be so interested in this local race? In another race south of us, a text message went out on election day saying the candidate had dropped out of the race. Again, false.

As a voter, please become informed. Please factcheck and please ensure that your precious vote is cast in a manner that is completely in line with what you support and not what you have been manipulated into thinking.

I can promise you that at the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange (GCBX), when we see false or misleading information going out about any of our endorsed candidates, we will do our best to ensure GCBX members receive factual information. That is our responsibility and our commitment to GCBX members.

Mary Dougherty is executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange.

Image courtesy Pixabay.

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