WE’RE IN THE MIDST OF ENDORSEMENT season and with a sudden burst of activity this week, we think voters need to take some time to evaluate who they listen to and why.

In a world of near overwhelming information, there’s certainly value to using endorsements as a filter, however, there’s no substitute for direct education.

First and foremost, voters need to talk to the candidates. This isn’t always possible in regional, state and national campaigns but it’s 100 percent possible in local races. Every candidate running for Santa Monica College Board, Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District Board, Rent Control Board, and City Council should be reachable to any voter. They have websites, Facebook pages, emails and phone numbers. If they don’t, they’re not good candidates and don’t deserve your vote anyway.

Talking to the candidates is important, but its arguably more important to actually listen when they speak and vote for someone based on their actual qualifications, not just pre-existing biases.

Voting for someone just because they’re a challenger is every bit as idiotic as voting for an incumbent just because you recognize their name. To earn your vote, a candidate should have a grasp of the issues and an ability to explain how they will impact the city if elected. Incumbents and challengers should have to earn your vote every cycle.

While direct contact is certainly best, there are opportunities to hear from the candidates in other settings.

We will be holding a series of candidate forums in October for all the local races. The events will be free and open to the public. We’re holding our SMC forum soon (date TBD) on the SMC campus, Rent Control Board on Oct. 9 at Virginia Ave. park, SMMUSD on Oct. 10 at Pt. Dume school in Malibu and Council on Oct. 16 at the MLK stage.

Candidates also hold fundraising events, attend public meetings and they should make the rounds for local community groups.

Voter education is critically important and to forego these opportunities for direct contact, whether it’s at our event or somewhere else, is unforgivable given the important of elections to our society.

Endorsements can be part of a balanced educational diet when they are put into the right context. As a rule of thumb, if you don’t interact with a person or organization throughout the year, you shouldn’t care about their endorsement. Entities that emerge from a civic torpor for three months during election years are not going to be informed, engaged and aware enough to make honest recommendations.

Groups you’ve never heard of may well be legitimate but little known organizations or they could be fronts for paid advertising efforts. Huge organizations have earned a reputation but are unlikely to be consistently engaged in local issues. Specialist organizations endorsing races outside their wheelhouse need to clearly explain why they suddenly have a general interest in an election.

Making informed decisions isn’t about which way you choose to vote, it’s about how you form the decision. This takes work and it takes time. Certainly endorsements can be signposts for the final decision but it’s up to the individual voter to make sure they have their hands on the wheel.



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