How to Vote Wisely: Tips & Criteria
Updated: Aug 2, 2022
Remember that the candidates’ principles are far more important than their party affiliation. To place confidence in unworthy candidates is a miscarriage of Christian stewardship. “Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot” (Proverbs25:19). –Bill Bright
I recently recorded a podcast entitled “Is it a Sin to NOT Vote?” The additional information I promised is below. If you sincerely desire to serve as a faithful steward of your God-given vote, read on. It is not designed to tell you who to vote for, or what political party to support. My goal is to pass on practical information to help you wisely invest the vote God gave you.
How do you decide who to vote for, or who to vote against? Think about that for a moment. Is it their style? Their personality? What they say? How they say it? Do they seem trustworthy? Maybe fear drives you? Maybe they claim to be a Christian. Many factors influence how we vote.
Elections are a billion-dollar industry with a lot at stake. Candidates pay dearly for marketing people who know how to manipulate you, trick you, scare you, woo you and capture your imagination. They also hire skilled coaches who help them package and deliver their public speeches. Some candidates are so articulate they could even fool their own mothers.
My mother was in the Oval Office with President Clinton on the National Day of Prayer in the 1990’s. She did not vote for him. She did not trust him. However, she said the man was so “charming” that had she not been absolutely certain of who she was talking to, she would have easily been sucked in within the first five minutes.
During my days on Capitol Hill, I knew a congressman who was highly respected and known to be a strong evangelical in his home district. He was tall, handsome, extremely smart, well-spoken and knew all the evangelical lingo. However, on Capitol Hill we all knew him to be a self-serving liar.
My point is—never trust the packaging or a silver tongue. It’s like Saruman in The Lord of the Rings—if you listened to him for very long, he would draw you in with his voice. The best defense was to just not listen.
And this brings me to the point of this blog, if you can’t trust a candidate’s words, how do you decide? In the next few paragraphs, I am going to share some tips that can help you cut through verbal mirages.
So, let’s begin. Following are six voting criteria:
1) INTEGRITY. Do their words and actions match? If they don’t, ignore their words and heavily weight their actions. Do their words and votes match? If they don’t, ignore their words and go with their voting record. But be careful, they can even fool you with how they say they vote.
During my days on Capitol Hill in the 80’s, I remember one congressman who went back to his home district in Georgia and told a group of conservatives he voted for Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative(SDI). He then told group of liberals he voted against funding SDI. Both were true. He had voted for the initial bill, then voted against funding it. Pretty shrewd, huh?
2) TRACK RECORD. “Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.” We know people can change, but it’s wise to keep this saying in mind when a candidate’s track record and words diverge. Unless you can clearly identify why the candidate changed, go with their track record. You’ll be right 9 times out of 10. Remember, never underestimate the ability of a skilled politician to deceive you if you listen very long.
3) ASSOCIATES. First, who are their friends? Remember the proverb your mother taught you: “You can judge a man by the company he keeps.” There is a lot of wisdom in that saying.
But there is another component to this concept that is just as important. Who do they hire? In politics there is a widely accepted truism: “Personnel is policy.” What that means is, no matter what a politician says, the person the candidate chooses to implement the policy is the one who will determine what actually happens. So look as carefully at the track record of the candidate’s chief of staff and key staffers as you do at the candidate.
4) MONEY. Money runs politics. As the saying goes, “Follow the Money.” Who gave money to the candidate? Who has the candidate give money to? Who has given money to their PAC? Who payrolls or enriches their wife, kids and siblings? For congressmen, senators and the president, it’s often helpful to visit the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) website and look up your candidate. It takes some time, but you can often uncover very interesting connections.
One word of caution: many businesspeople often give to both candidates so they can have access after the election no matter who wins. That may be questionable ethics, but it is shrewd. And it is extremely common.
5) ENDORSEMENTS. What individuals have endorsed the candidate? What groups have endorsed the candidate? Oh, and don’t forget, who has the candidate endorsed? Endorsements are a big clue as to how the candidate will vote after he or she is elected.
6) WORDS. “Actions speak louder than words.” It’s true. Turn down the volume and vote based on the first five points above.
I have one more piece of advice that is often overlooked. What is the job description of the position the candidate is vying for? It should make a difference in how you vote.
JOB DESCRIPTION OF A U.S. CONGRESSMAN:
What is the primary job of a U.S. congressman? It’s to pass laws and spend your money, right? So, vote based on how you think they will spend your money as well as the laws you think they are likely to support or oppose.
JOB DESCRIPTION OF A U.S. SENATOR:
What is the primary job description of a U.S. senator? It's to pass laws, spend your money, confirm cabinet members and confirm federal judges. Let me ask you, what is the most powerful branch of government today? Is it the legislative, executive or judiciary? It’s the judiciary. In theory, the three branches are supposed to serve as checks and balances against each other. However, in modern practice, the balance of power between the three branches of government is no longer balanced. The federal courts routinely tell the Congress and President what they can and cannot do. So, remember, when you vote for a United States senator, you are also voting for largely unaccountable federal justices (including the Supreme Court) who will control your destiny and the destiny of this nation.
JOB DESCRIPTION OF THE U.S. PRESIDENT:
Likewise, the President wears a lot of hats in our government, but one of them is to nominate justices to the federal courts. Since the federal courts are the most powerful branch of government (they can tell the president “No!” and he must obey—at least for now) make sure you take that into account.
Now, you are probably thinking to yourself, “I don’t have time to apply these criteria to every candidate I have to vote for!” Unless you are retired, or a political analyst, you are correct. So here is my final piece of advice. Ask 5 to 10 like-minded friends to join with you (your church would probably be a good place to find such people). Each of you take 2-3 candidates and thoroughly research them. First do a written report on each candidate. Then send it out to every member of your group. Finally, find a time for everyone to get together to talk about each candidate and ask questions. Now you can vote wisely without having to do all the work yourself.
I strongly recommend iVoterGuide.com as a resource to help you evaluate candidates. They apply the exact same grid to every candidate, so it gives you a great comparative analysis. And, unlike most candidate rating systems, they do not weight votes in order to manipulate their ratings. As long as iVoterGuide.com continues to work hard to use the exact same grid for every candidate, I will continue recommending them. If they ever stop, I will let you know as soon as I know.
I leave you with words my sister-in-law, Paula, often voiced whenever her kids walked out the front door, “Make wise choices.”
Your 7 Duties as a Christian Citizen by Bill Bright & Brad Bright is available on our Resources Page. It is a short booklet designed to help you steward your responsibilities as a Christian Citizen well.
Copyright ©2022 Brad Bright