COVID-19 has upended our lives in many ways, changing with whom we regularly socialize, where we dine and how we shop. We stay home more, watch television more and, ideally, read more.
The pandemic also has impacted our ways to access information about the people seeking our votes in the Aug. 4 primary. Chances are you’re not asking your neighbor over the back fence what she knows about candidates x, y or z. Because of the coronavirus, fewer politicians are holding coffees and happy hours. And you’re not off to the library for a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters to hear the candidates discuss the issues of the day.
Thanks to flexibility and impressive technology, though, voters in this primary have access to reliable information about the candidates and issues.
For one, there’s Vote411.org, an online voter guide produced by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters. Every candidate competing in this primary for a position in the Legislature, a statewide office, or a seat in Congress has been asked to respond to nonpartisan questions about key issues. The answers provided by the candidates who have chosen to respond are all online for voters to read. (If you notice one of your candidates hasn’t provided information, consider giving his or her office a call to nudge the candidate to participate.)
In Washington’s governor’s race, for example, candidates have been asked how they would address issues of racism, policing, and the environment. Congressional hopefuls were asked about health care for all and the expansion of Medicaid, and solutions for alleviating homelessness.
At the state level, questions deal with the new sex education legislation, economic support for small businesses hard hit by the pandemic, the Interstate 5 Bridge, and reopening the state.
The League, which celebrates its centennial this year, is well known as a grassroots nonpartisan organization. It never endorses a candidate or political party; its mission is to empower voters and defend democracy. And in the case of Vote411.org, it does not edit the responses candidates provide.
Another good resource for a voter looking to be informed is the voter guide — available online at the Clark County elections office website. This document doesn’t pose specific questions to the candidates but it does publish open-ended statements by the candidates.
The sites have additional information, including deadlines and how to register to vote. By the way, you can register, online, until Monday.
While it’s true the coronavirus has made it impossible for League volunteers to host the in-person candidate forums for which we are well known, the League has employed videoconferencing to conduct a number of forums.
In Clark County, working with public access Clark/Vancouver Television, the League hosted two forums for four races earlier this month. Besides being livestreamed on the League’s Facebook page and broadcast on CVTV, recordings continue to be available at lwvclarkcounty.org and on cvtv.org.
We League members are particularly proud of our one-stop-shop Vote411.org site. Earlier this year, it was recognized with a Webby Award, considered among the internet’s highest honors.
We also like it because our research shows Vote411.org helps empower voters. Before the Nov. 3 general election, we expect one in five people in the United States will access it for reliable, nonpartisan information.
Nancy Halvorson and Jane Johnson are co-presidents of the League of Women Voters of Clark County.