How to make your vote count

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Added: Wed, 10/23/2013 - 12:54pm
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With the upcoming municipal elections, Pontiac residents will be receiving several visits from     candidates looking to present their platforms and secure votes. With each candidate who arrives at the door, it becomes increasingly difficult for voters to differentiate between statements that are honest and sincere, and those that are full of empty promises made by candidates who know exactly what the public wants to hear.
How does one tell when a politician is stretching the truth? The age-old answer: as long as their lips are moving! Joking aside, the best defence against a lie is to arm oneself with both knowledge and intuition. Be    prepared to do some homework.
A suggestion would be for   voters to make a list of the issues that are important to them, and ask questions based on those issues rather than letting the    candidate dictate the conversation. Request a copy of municipal budgets, become familiar with municipal bylaws, etc., and ask questions or state opinions based on those documents. Move the conversation beyond the candidates’ pre-rehearsed speeches.
If the candidate has already been a part of council, critically reflect on what they have done over their term, and ask questions. Did they actively participate in municipal affairs? What positive changes were they a part of? What were their shortcomings? If the candidate is running for council for the first time,   consider their past involvement in the community, what they have been a part of, and if they have overseen any positive changes in the community.  
Don’t assign too much weight to candidates’ statements about the shortcomings of their opponents; it’s a method of diverting attention from what they are going to do to address the problems in their municipality and how they are going to promote positive changes.
Appreciate those who are   honest about the struggles they may face or have faced. It’s better to have someone admitting defeat, than having someone claim all can be solved by voting for them. If a candidate’s platform seems too good to be true, chances are it is.
However, candidates face their own struggles when running for council in small municipalities. Often, voters choose not to actively participate or choose to remain uninformed, and simply vote for people based on friendships,   family members, who their spouse will be voting for, or sadly, the first candidate who comes knocking at their door.
It’s time voters move beyond the popularity contest, and start treating municipal elections seriously. Informed choices, based on what would be best for both the residents’ futures, and the future of their municipalities, need to be made. Voters and elected officials play an equal role in determining the future of their municipalities; those   elected are responsible for the  well-being of their region, while voters are responsible for choosing the right person for the job!

Allyson Beauregard