I’m dropping off my ballot tomorrow. But when my voter’s guide research turned into eye-rolling and copy editing the statements, I was compelled to write a guide of my own for potential candidates that explains Six Ways to Improve Your Chance of Getting My Vote.
1. Don’t mix up their and there or you’re and your.
You’re running for office. That’s a pretty big deal and I get that you’ve got a lot on your mind, like raising money, trying to paint your opponent as an out of touch nut job, and raising more money, possibly from wealthy nut jobs. So this may seem trivial. But do you know how many millions of dollars can be at stake when lawyers representing municipalities fight over legal agreements and the original intent of words like shall vs. may? Words matter. Know which ones are which.
2. Don’t switch back and forth from first to third person in the candidate statement.
As in: “I believe that I am the best person to represent this community. He has extensive experience with a number of organizations.”
I know that in a campaign, writing by committee is rampant and often necessary just to respond to the volume of material requests needed to run for office. But if you can’t sufficiently manage staff to make sure that someone is at least making sure you have a top notch voter’s guide submission (it is a giant piece of free voter outreach after all), why on earth should I believe that you can manage the number of staff and disparate issues that will require your attention if you are to be an effective legislator?
3. Don’t outline what you support and what you’ll do in office by spouting a bunch of platitudes, sports analogies, and generalities.
“I support better funding for education.” “We must have strong growth in our economy.” “I’m a team player, but an independent when it counts.” “I want to improve our infrastructure and build for the future. ”
Let me guess: you are also opposed to crime, believe in clean air and water, and think that children are our future. That aside: what EXACTLY are your plans to affect any of those things? And don’t just tell me what your opponent HASN’T done. Tell me what you WILL do and HOW you propose to do it.
4. Don’t have a ridiculous email.
If you are running for office, emails like this are verboten: harleyrider firstname.lastname@example.org, TimTanyaAndTheKids@hotmail.com, or Lovescrockpots@aol.com. Actually, any AOL address for a candidate is an instant vote-stopper.
You’re running to represent a large number of your fellow residents and to make decisions that will affect lives. Get an email address that reflects that you actually put some thought into this process and that it wasn’t an alcohol-fueled whim or the result of a bet. That you lost.
5. Don’t spend a significant portion of the voter guide statement quoting or referring to someone else.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s your personal hero, a religious icon, people who’ve endorsed you, some other super popular candidate, or the voices in your head that told you to run. I want to know what YOU think. If I want to know what random others think, let them come ask for my vote themselves.
6. Don’t litter your “statement” with an egregious use of “words in quotes” for no “apparent reason.”
My five year old has lately taken to a rather haphazard use of air quotes, which are the real life equivalent. I find it hilarious, but then, she’s five. You’re at least six times her age and, at a minimum, have 14 years or more of schooling under your belt. Write like it.
Natasha “A Voter Who Actually Cares About This Stuff” Jones