Be an informed voter | Reporter’s notebook

When I was a young voter, picking my choices wasn’t clear or easy. Ballot language was often confusing, and I didn’t know where to find credible information on measures or candidates.

Over the years I’ve learned that voting doesn’t have to be hard or time-consuming. In San Juan County, there are a variety of resources to help you make the decision that is best for you — not your family members, friends or even your political party.

Voters guide

The Washington State Secretary of State supplies voter guides, both through the mail and online at www.sos.wa.gov/elections. The guides display the measures and candidates on each county’s November ballots. Guides don’t just provide the ballot language, but information written by state employees, explaining the proposed laws, as well as their effects on state and local finances if the laws are passed.

While biographical candidate information is submitted by local, state and federal nominees, arguments for and against state measures are drafted by those who often have experience with the topics. A state measure on November’s ballot for stricter gun control, for instance, features an argument for the initiative, written, in part, by school shooting survivors, while the argument against, was partly written by the state director of the National Rifle Association.

The voters guide is also on the county’s elections office website at www.sanjuanco.com/1221/Elections-Office, or you can grab hard copies at their Second Street office.

League of Women Voters

I am a member of a nonpartisan political organization called the League of Women Voters. The Washington state chapter provides summaries and arguments for and against this November’s four state ballot measures at www.lwvwa.org/ballot-measures. The reports are written by league members by compiling credible sources, then reviewed to ensure there is no bias or inflammatory language. The summaries and arguments often come from similar sources as the state voters guide, but to me, they are easier to understand. You can also use www.vote411.org to view your personalized ballot online. This league website includes Q&As with federal, state and local candidates that you might not see anywhere else.

In the San Juans, the local league will host a candidate forum highlighting three local races and one state race. The forum will be at 5:15 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 11 at the San Juan Grange on First Street, while two more will be held on Orcas and Lopez, Oct. 17 and 18, respectively. The local league also held a discussion on a measure to possibly create a real estate excise tax to fund county affordable housing projects. Watch a video of that event at https://bit.ly/2xHotlo.

Learning how to be an informed voter is just as important as voting itself. Evaluating a variety of sources provides varied perspectives to help develop your own opinions. When your mailed ballot arrives the week of Oct. 16, review the resources you’ve collected as you fill in your answers. Ballots can seem like a puzzle, but finding credible information can help you make the choices, right for you, by Nov. 6.