Amidst your barbeques, pool parties and camping trips this summer, there’s a chance the subject of politics may come up as a topic of conversation. Whether the mention of politics fills you with dread and aversion or genuinely piques your interest, when you are informed, there is no reason to feel intimidated by a respectful political conversation. The general election is just around the corner, and it’s never too early to be thinking about how you plan to vote.
Here are 5 easy ways you can stay informed about the issues and candidates on the general election ballot:
- Start local. While the fervor and drama of national politics often dominate the headlines, the government closest to you is the most accessible, and has the greatest impact on your everyday life. Many county and state officials are up for election this fall, including nearly the entire state legislature. From county officials to school boards and state representatives to senators, these public servants make decisions that affect your children’s education, the roads you drive on and even the air you breathe. Find out who currently represents you and who is on the ballot at vote.utah.gov.
- Understand federal issues and candidate positions. In addition to state and local officials, five of our six congressional seats are also up for election. Federal policies regarding small business regulation, health care, immigration and trade, among many others, have a direct impact on Utah’s economy and your family’s quality of life. That’s why understanding a candidate’s position on the issues you care about is crucial to ensure you make informed decisions on Election Day. Current members of congress and candidates regularly host gatherings, town hall meetings and telephone Q&A sessions to keep constituents informed. You can also find out their stances on particular issues by visiting their websites. Additionally, plan to watch or listen to upcoming congressional debates. For example, the Utah Debate Commission, a non-partisan independent organization, will host a debate for each congressional race that will be broadcast on all local news channels and streamed online. To see the schedule, visit their website.
- Expand your perspective with local journalism. Before you turn to a cable news station or national newspaper for all of your information, look to Utah’s newspaper, TV and radio channels for a local perspective. Political reporters from these outlets have a good pulse on what’s happening on the local, state and federal level and report informative stories every day that can expand your understanding of policy matters. Follow them on social media to stay in the loop, along with reading, listening and watching the stories they produce. Another way to do this is to get headlines and updates delivered to your inbox through newsletters such as the Salt Lake Tribune’s Political Cornflakes or Utah Policy’s Situational Awareness. You can also listen to local podcasts like KCPW’s Both Sides of the Aisle, hosted by the Salt Lake Chamber’s Economist and Senior Advisor Natalie Gochnour, for the perspectives of republicans, democrats and moderates on the issues of the day. Lastly, don’t forget to take a few minutes to read your neighborhood journal, another easy way to learn about challenges and opportunities facing your community.
- Get involved in a Salt Lake Chamber policy committee. It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO or the accountant, been in the business for 40 years or 4 months, if your company or organization is a member of the Salt Lake Chamber, you can join one of our policy committees or task forces to stay in the know. These committees meet bi-monthly to discuss how certain topics such as natural resources, health care, cybersecurity or transportation impact Utah’s economic development and business climate. Visit our website for more information and join our roster–the next committee meetings begin in August.
- Share your thoughts. As a business leader within your community, you have a unique perspective on policy issues that specifically impact your industry. As you stay informed about the candidates and issues on the ballot this November, share your thoughts, questions and ideas with others, and ask for theirs as well. Whether at your child’s baseball game, around the campfire or at the pool, respectful political conversations are possible and important to our democracy. Your conversation may help you learn something new or give ideas for your friends and family to think about as they prepare to vote.
Utah voter turnout is among the lowest in the nation. Feeling uninformed or disliking politics is not a reason to skip voting. Staying informed this summer is easy, if you take a little time to do your research about the issues that impact your business, family and community.