Civics Notes Throwback: Researching Candidates

"Civic Notes Throwback" is a series where we highlight civic articles from past newsletters (published in Fall 2020). This article was originally published on October 13, 2020.

By Janae Steggall and Asha Ayyar

Why It’s Important to Be An Informed Voter

Being an informed voter has never been easier! Thanks to nonpartisan, online, and free resources, it takes mere moments to have a better grasp of races happening around you. 

First, it’s important you know who is currently representing you and what districts you reside in. If you’re from Texas, the Texas Tribune has a great state-wide directory that will tell you who your state and federal representatives are. If you’re living in Austin, going here and entering your address in the space labelled “Find a City Council by Address” will tell you who your city council representative is. And regardless of what state you live in, Common Cause is a great resource for finding out who your representatives are and how to contact them.

Resources like vote411.org and the League of Women Voters’ Guide (available state-wide in English and Spanish and for the Austin area in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese) make it easier than ever to be an informed voter. At vote411.org, select “What’s On My Ballot” at the top right and put in the address you’re registered to vote at. Then you’ll be shown the candidates and propositions that will be on your ballot, along with nonpartisan information about them. No need to feel like you need to study - these nonpartisan resources have done the hard work for you! Once you pick your candidates, we encourage you to print out or write down your candidate choices and take them with you to the polls, as you cannot use your phone within 100 feet of the polling station. If you’re voting absentee, you can use your phone or computer to access these resources while filling out your absentee ballot! 

Resources to Be An Informed Voter

If you’d like more information about what an elected state position is responsible for, you can find informative videos here. And this website is another resource that provides more insight into the duties of county officials, if you look under “Who Are County Officials.” 

Local newspapers can be a great resource to find information on candidates and propositions, as well as endorsements for candidates in your area. The Texas Tribune provides information on who is running at the federal and state levels in your areas. The KVUE voter guide can connect you to the websites of specific candidates that are running in races on the federal, state and county levels this year. If you use KVUE, scroll down to “Chapter 5 What will be on the Ballot?” to find this information. The Austin Common also has an election guide that can help you find information on the races on the city level this year. 

We encourage everyone to virtually attend or watch upcoming and past candidate debates and forums, for all levels of government. Federal debates, such as those for Senatorial or Presidential races, are typically televised by major or local news networks, and may be available post-debate on YouTube. Debate for state and local races require a little bit more digging, and may be hosted by your city, county, or a third-party organization. You can usually find these debates on candidates’ social media or local news organizations programming. They may also be available on YouTube. Here is a brief list of upcoming Texas debates.  

Last but certainly not least, please fact check the information you take in. For every news story, Facebook post, tweet, TikTok, Instagram story, etc. that you see please check its legitimacy by doing a quick Google search to see if reputable news organizations are discussing it. Sensationalism sells, and it’s important that we’re all vigilant and informed voters for each and every election! Happy Voting!


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