To plan the basics of the guide, start by deciding on your goals and making the first decisions.
What will be included in the guide?
Some of the top questions voters ask are:
- What and who are on the ballot?
- What is the date of the next election and any voter deadlines?
- What are the options for ways to vote?
- Where do I vote (and what are the hours on Election Day)?
All of this information can be found at www.myvote.wi.gov
Providing as much information as you can, will be doing your community a very valuable service; but your research must be sourced to be credible.
NOTE: Be sure not to make endorsements any of the candidates, i.e. don’t use words or phrases such as “vote for,” “support,” etc. Doing so will require you to track your expenses (both cash and in-kind) and could result in requiring you to file an independent expenditure form. If you keep the information limited to where the candidates stand on issues in the spirit of voter education without interjecting your and your group’s opinion, it will not only save you from the headache of tracking expenses and potentially filing a report, it will also allow you to distribute your information in churches and other non-profit forums.
YOU ALSO MAY NOT COORDINATE THE MESSAGING WITH ANY SPECIFIC CANDIDATE/S OR HIS/HER COMMITTEES. This is important! Your research must be done independent of any candidate or candidate’s committee. Otherwise, it will be considered an in-kind donation to the campaign, and will wreck the credibility of your research.
The following is an outline of methods you can use to determine where a candidate stands on the issues that matter to you and other members of your group.
- Create a list of hot topic issues in your community that are important to your group. Don’t make the list too long—pick 3 or 4 issues that have a broad appeal to like-minded voters as well as independent voters (taxes, mask mandates, vaccination mandates, critical race theory, conversion therapy bans, etc.).
- Create a questionnaire using the above list and distribute to all the candidates, asking for their reply by a certain date. This often works very well for local races. Once the responses are returned, compile them into a table and make the information available online and/or via print copies. Contact WFC (888-378-7395 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org)for questionnaire templates and samples of the compiled information.
- If a candidate has held office before, look through his/her voting record.
- Look through candidates’ campaign finance reports. If they have spent more than $2,000, they are required to file a campaign finance report. You can search campaign finance reports through the Wisconsin Ethics Commission here: www.cfis.wi.gov.
- Search through candidates’ social media (check both their personal pages and their official candidate pages – FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) to see what they are saying and who has endorsed them.
- Check to see if the candidates have a website and comb through their site, looking for position statements, endorsements by groups and associations.
- Google search the candidates for news stories about them.
- Regional newspapers often publish a voter guide.
- Attend candidate forums and ask the candidate directly (you can also sponsor a candidate forum, but be sure to invite all candidates running for that position).
- Call the candidates directly and ask them about the issues important to you and/or your coalition.
- Even though local offices like school board, city council, and county supervisor/executive are nonpartisan, the local county political parties often endorse and/or support candidates who align with their ideology.
- Pull public photographs of the candidates from social media so that you can use the picture with a summary of where they stand on the important issues.
- If you cannot find information, you can simply state in your summary that the candidate does not state a public position on the issue.
Once you have gathered all of the information you can on all of the candidates, write a brief description (bullet points) of their position on each issue you have chosen bullet-pointed under their photograph. It can be posted on your group’s social media pages and then shared by and/or with others. Again, contact WFC for help and more information: 888-378-7395 or email at email@example.com.
Here are some tips in creating your guide:
- Create the voter guide in Microsoft PowerPoint (here is a template developed by ElectionTools.org that is easy to use: Download the Pocket Voter Guide Template (.pptx file, 1.1MB)
- For specific instructions on how to edit and customize this template, visit: Pocket voter guide template : ElectionTools.org
- You can delete slides that are not applicable and add slides to the PowerPoint deck for each local candidate running in your area.
- Once you have completed the information on how and where to vote, you can create slides for each candidate organized by office they are seeking
- Be sure to use a font that is easily read (Arial and Times New Roman are the most popular).
- Once your guide is edited and finalized, you will need to create a PDF file with Adobe Acrobat Reader (download free here: Download Adobe Acrobat Reader DC | Free PDF viewer | Windows, Mac, iOS, Android)
The voter guide template comes with placeholder information about voting. To customize it, you’ll need information about your voting area, including deadlines, phone numbers, web addresses and other information. To find the specific information about your area, visit: www.myvote.wi.org.
Once you have completed your guide, you can email it, post it on a website and text the link to your cell phone list, and share it on social media. If you are going to print copies, visit Pocket voter guide template : ElectionTools.org and click on the “using the tool” link. Scroll down for specific instructions on how to print and fold your guide.