ORLANDO – How much do you know about the candidates running for elected office this year?
In the November election, Floridians will decide on:
- Attorney general
- Chief financial office
- Agricultural commissioner
- U.S. Senate
- U.S. House races
- Florida Senate and House races
- County commission races (some counties have nonpartisan races, some counties have partisan races)
- Any school board races in a runoff
If you want to make sure you choose a candidate who suits your beliefs and priorities, you may want to do a little research.
Fortunately, there are voting guides out there that can help you with that, both partisan and nonpartisan.
First, learn what races you’re voting on
Registered voters should be getting their sample ballots in the mail from their county supervisors of elections. These ballots tell you exactly what races you’ll be deciding on based on where you live.
If you have not gotten your sample ballot yet, you can find your ballot on your county supervisor of elections website. Check out the links below.
- ORANGE COUNTY: View your sample ballot
- SEMINOLE COUNTY: View your sample ballot
- OSCEOLA COUNTY: View your sample ballot
- VOLUSIA COUNTY: View Your sample ballot
- BREVARD COUNTY: View your sample ballot
- MARION COUNTY: View Your sample ballot
- FLAGLER COUNTY: View Your Sample Ballot
- LAKE COUNTY: View Your Sample Ballot
- SUMTER COUNTY: View your sample ballot
- POLK COUNTY: View your sample ballot
Next, check out some of these voting guides
VOTE411 is a product of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters, a national group borne out of the Women’s Suffrage movement. Since 2006, the league has operated a national site that helps voters figure out how to vote, and also learn about the candidates they can vote for.
LWV sends out a questionnaire to all candidates, the same questions depending on the race, and it is up to candidates to fill out the questionnaire and return it. It’s entirely voluntary, so there may not be responses from every candidate.
Right now the league has responses from candidates in every election on the ballot this August.
To find your races, you just input your address. Then the system asks you what candidates you want to see, and whether you want answers in English or Spanish.
“It’s definitely a work in progress, and every year it gets bigger,” said Barbara Lanning, co-president for LWV in Orange County.
Now, when you go through your ballot and you see all of the judges up for election, what do you do? Do you know who they are? Do you leave them blank?
The Florida Bar makes understanding what the heck you are voting for a lot easier.
The legal group has a voting guide called “The Vote’s in Your Court,” and it is an easy-to-read guide to understanding what the judges do, what the differences are between all the different courts, and why we vote for judges.
They also post candidate responses to a voluntary survey, like the League of Women Voters does. Not all judges submit these voluntary self-disclosure statements. The ones who do at least give you some information to work with.
While many county and circuit judgeships may have been decided in the August primary, other judges will be on the ballot: these are the merit retention polls for appeals court judges and some Florida Supreme Court justices.
Voters gets to decide every few years whether judges in these courts get to retain their seats. If they are voted off their respective benches, new judges are appointed.
One thing neither the League of Women Voters nor the Florida Bar does is endorse candidates. But other organizations do.
Looking for voting guides that are a bit more… partisan?
You can look up your county political parties online, and many of them should offer voter guides.
You can also check out the various organizations that operate in Florida. While not all of them do candidate endorsements, some of them offer legislative scorecards. These are ratings of how state lawmakers handle issues these groups care about.
Here’s a list of organizations with legislative scorecards and/or endorsements.
- Florida Education Association: This is the state teachers union.
- Equality Florida: One of the leading LGBTQ advocacy groups in the state.
- Florida Chamber of Commerce: This is the state’s leading business group.
- Sierra Club: One of the top environmental groups in the country.
- Americans for Prosperity: A small-government advocacy group with ties to the conservative Charles Koch.
- American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Florida: A union for government workers.
- Florida Family Action: This is a faith-based political group.
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