With the Presidential primary season already well underway and Illinois primary coming up on March 20, I have been thinking about my process for decided which candidates to vote for. In past years, I have tried to judge candidates based on a wide range of issues and criteria from foreign policy to economics to bicycle policy.
However, I have realized that, at least for me, such an approach is impractical. My time is finite and with many local candidates, it is difficult or impossible to find the answers to all the questions asked in such an overarching approach. Instead, I think it is better for me to focus on a few particular areas that are of most importance to me or in which I am unusually expert. I am an evangelical Christian, a husband, and a scientist by training and career.
This year, four areas stand out to me, and I have arranged them in order from least to most specific.
Forthrightness: Before I can make judgements in any other area, I first must be able to discern what a candidates opinions and stands are. Do they fill out voter guides, appear at candidates forms, or have a web site where this information is available? If not, I am much less likely to vote for them because I do not have enough information to make an informed decision. This area is particularly difficult for judicial elections where the candidates are bound by law to reveal little.
Justice: Once I have some idea of what the candidates believe and would do in office, I need to assess whether I agree with those beliefs, past actions, and hypothetical future actions. I believe that, from a Biblical perspective, justice is the most important function of any government. This includes honoring the good (Romans 13:3-4), ensuring the guilty are punished (Romans 13:4-5 ), confirming the punished are guilty (Deuteronomy 17:6), preventing crime when possible, and defending those who cannot defend themselves (Jeremiah 22:15-16).
Science: In any government, no matter how large or small, some decisions will need to be made with regard to scientific findings and technological developments. The myriad of examples include the validity of arson investigations, DNA testing, obesity, energy policy, nuclear weapons, evolution, global warming, and funding for scientific research. I include bicycle policy in this area because of its connection to obesity, energy policy, and global warming. Regardless of the absolute importance of any of these examples, this area is the one where I am best trained, most knowledgeable, and can be most confident of my discernment.