Deciding how to vote might be easy in the BIG elections, but we need to figure out how to vote in the smaller elections as they are just important. HOW do we do it, and how can we make sure that our right to vote is protected?
Today’s guest is my brother, Jeremy Pope. He is a political science professor at Brigham Young University. He is not on any discernible social media.
What we mention
How to safely mail in your ballot
How to research smaller elected officials
Producer: Drew Erickson
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Hilary Erickson 0:00
Hey guys, welcome back to the Pulling Curls Podcast! Today on Episode 61, we are talking about voting. Soon you will vote in the most important election of your life. Just kidding! They’re all super important, so let’s untangle it.
Welcome to the Pulling Curls Podcast. I’m Hilary, your curly headed host on the podcast where we untangle everything from pregnancy, parenting and home routines. I want you to know that there are no right answers for every family and I find that simplifying my priorities is almost always the answer. It’s tangled, just like my hair.
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Okay, today’s guest rolled me up in the carpet and sat on me when I was about age eight. Guys, I don’t know if you know. So, my dad is an economic historian. He taught at BYU, which is also where I went to college. And my brother is a political science professor at BYU, which is also where he went to college. And I wanted to have him on to talk about voting, because he is, you know, he’s a political science professor, so you got to take him for what he’s worth, right?
Anyway. Well, all of my family wanted to talk about candidates. I really just wanted to talk about catheters, I’m definitely the black sheep of my family. And so when it comes time to vote, I always kind of get some tips for my family. So I wanted to have my brother on, Jeremy Pope.
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Hey Jeremy, welcome to the Pulling Curls Podcast!
Jeremy Pope 2:24
It’s great to be here, Hilary.
Hilary Erickson 2:25
Yeah. Um, so Jeremy’s my brother, as I mentioned in the intro, and he is in Utah, and I’m in Arizona. So, what do you think is the most important election to vote in?
Jeremy Pope 2:41
The most giving, like, over time, or like the most important type of election to vote in?
Hilary Erickson 2:46
Jeremy Pope 2:47
Hilary Erickson 2:48
Oh you know, turnout is gonna be great this fall. Probably. Right, where it’s crappy a lot of the rest of the time?
Jeremy Pope 2:53
You know, I wish I knew the answer to that political scientists are spending a lot of time debating that because it’s sort of unclear with all the mail-in voting, COVID the fact that Donald Trump is an unpopular candidate. It’s kind of unclear what turnout is going to be like, and it’ll probably vary by the state and by how states choose to arrange their elections and how much mail-in voting is going on.
Hilary Erickson 3:14
Okay, so turnout, do you mean people that show up to the polls? Because I mail in because, I’ve always mailed in since I had little people because it was too hard to stand there.
Jeremy Pope 3:22
Turn out, to me usually just means the total number of people that vote.
Hilary Erickson 3:26
Jeremy Pope 3:27
I would think that that will be complicated. And there’s there’s a lot there’s some complications with vote by mail that people ought to be thinking about.
Hilary Erickson 3:35
Okay, and we’re gonna get into that, but I’m just saying, like, do you think that the Trump / Biden election is the most important one to vote in? That’ll be on your ballot this fall?
Jeremy Pope 3:42
I guess, I would say probably not. If you had to pin me down. I would say that it’s probably more important that people are tuned in to local elections, city councils, mayor’s races, county seeds, things like that. They’re well over half a million elected officials in the United States. And that by far makes us the country with the most elected officials around the world. And so the fact that we’ve chosen to elect all these offices means we really ought to pay more attention to things like county commissioner or county Mayor or city mayor, and we often don’t and so I tend to think those elections are more important than people think that they are. And frankly, because fewer people vote in those elections, your ability to be, so we say, pivotal is higher in those races than it is in a presidential election.
Hilary Erickson 4:26
Yeah, so that’s why we’re here today, guys, because I think a lot of us probably know who we’re gonna vote for, for President. And if you don’t, we’re not here to tell you who to vote for. That’s not my job. Because I- that’s your business. What I want to talk about is how to pick in those small election seats. So one of my best friends is running for school board and it’s just really opened up my eyes to like how they have to run a website and social media and all that kind of stuff. So Jeremy is here to talk to us about how we pick who to vote for. So, okay, let’s talk about that the mail in versus in person, what we just mentioned, what’s the difference? What do we need to watch for I do mail in I feel like that’s a confession right now, because people are saying, oh, you shouldn’t mail in.
Jeremy Pope 5:04
Um, I don’t think it’s a confession, mail and voting is great. And the really probably isn’t any big is to with it, except for maybe two things. One is, if you’re going to mail in your votes, you need to do it a bit early, I will admit just as a political scientist for him, and I’ll take a normative stand and just say, I don’t love the fact that you’re supposed to, you really need to mail it in early because who knows what might happen in the last week of the election. But when people ask me, I always tell them, you know, you should really mail it in a week to 10 days before the end of the election.
And the reason for that is a lot of states have rules about postmarks and when they’re going to get it and this kind of thing. And so lots of states actually end up turning away a number of mail ballots more than you would imagine, actually give you an example. I don’t you probably have some listeners in New York, the New York democrats just ran a primary about 20% of the mailing balance in New York and that primary election that was held last June, were turned aside and not clear.
counted, because either they didn’t, they weren’t mailed in early enough, they didn’t have a postmark, they weren’t signed. There are other rules as well. But you know, that tells you something, you should get it done early and be very careful in how you’re doing it. And so I would definitely jump on that. And then the second thing is different states have different levels of knowledge of this. For your listeners that are living in states like Colorado, Utah, Washington, Hawaii, and Oregon, they’re perfectly safe, because those states have an immense amount of experience with mail and voting.
And so you can be as long as you follow the rules on your ballot that should be mailed to you and you turn your vote in early, you can be virtually certain that everything will go fine. The worry for the fall is that there’s a number of states that are going to be using mail and voting at a much higher rate and sometimes for the first time, and I think they’re more likely to make it hard to vote and possibly end up rejecting some people’s votes. People aren’t careful.
So if you live someplace, especially on the East Coast, or in parts of the South, although Florida does a lot of mainland voting, then that’s going to be all new to them. So you’re going to want to You would early and you may want to check on whether or not your vote was actually counted or not. There are ways to do that with the, you know, the county clerk, it varies by state. But it’s possible to do that.
Hilary Erickson 7:09
Yeah. So that’s something you can look up. I know I just voted in our primary and I could see that my vote was counted. I didn’t really pay attention, nor did I look. So but I did mail it way ahead of time.
Jeremy Pope 7:20
If you mail ahead of time, and you’re sure you follow the instructions, I just wouldn’t sweat it. But if you are nervous, in many states, you can check by going to the usual Secretary of State’s website and you just plug in your you your name, yeah, you might have to have saved like often these mail ballots have kind of like a receipt or you can tear off like a ballot number or something like that.
There are different things that you can do to make sure that you have kept kind of track of where your ballot is, as long as you have one of those or just your name and where you’re registered, then they can usually tell it’s actually public information in most states that sometimes shocks people, but it’s very easy for me in virtually every state to just go by lists and find out exactly who voted and how many elections and who didn’t and political parties and candidates do that all the time. That’s how they target them. messages to voters.
Hilary Erickson 8:01
Yeah, we did some polls some like door to door for some stuff in California and it was crazy how much they knew about people just from the election information. So that is true in its public domain. I guess
Jeremy Pope 8:13
in almost every state a few states it’s not but but in virtually every state, you can find out almost everything,
Hilary Erickson 8:17
but they already know everything about us from Facebook, so it’s fine. Okay, so when should you start getting ready to vote?
Jeremy Pope 8:25
Well, I guess I let me give kind of a lame answer to that. I think getting ready to vote has more to do with being an observant citizen all the time, that sort of picking a Saturday morning and sitting down and reading the voter guide or literature. I think the most effective voters probably have spent a lot of time thinking about what’s most important to me, do I care the most about political parties?
Do I care the most about a particular set of issues? Do I care the most about maybe personal relationships in the small city council elections? I mean, in a town like I live in Provo, Utah, it’s not a tiny town. It’s a large place either. And so I can often at least have Bet or know, people that are running for city council. And you know, you might care a lot about those personal connections, that kind of election.
Hilary Erickson 9:07
Yeah, that’s really true. And you know, school board is sometimes just as important as President, if you have a kid that’s in school. Yeah. Because they make a lot of choices as to if you’re school shuts or stuff like that. So, and I almost always know people who are running for the school board just because I’m involved in school. So
Jeremy Pope 9:25
yeah, that I think that’s a key election that people overlook. And it’s not the easiest one to research here. Because the people that are running I have found and it’s not an area of my own research, but the people that are running often, they’re not taking incredibly clear stances on lots of issues. And so you may have to actually attend a meeting to really learn about what their views are. Yeah, they all love children. They do. I it’s rare is the school board candidate who has a platform of children. I hate them.
Hilary Erickson 9:52
Yeah, I mean, but it’s, it’s worth a try.
Jeremy Pope 9:55
I suppose there might be that constituency out there. I have a neighbor who I think My gopher that will leave his name. He doesn’t really hate children. He just hates taxes. Let’s be honest about that.
Hilary Erickson 10:06
Yeah. And if you don’t have kids, and later on, they can affect all that kind of stuff, too. So, yeah. Okay, so how do you get prepared?
Jeremy Pope 10:14
Well, like I said, I think you need to spend a lot of time thinking about what matters to you. A lot of these local races that we’ve been talking about are nonpartisan, though, in some places, they are partisan, but typically they’re not. And so that’s going to be you’re going to have to just do more research, you’re going to have to like find out what is that candidate for school board or city council or whatever actually going to do in my town, and there’s no substitute for going to an official public meeting of some sort, where you can watch them.
That’s a lot of effort. I will admit, I’d haven’t done that for every office that I’ve ever voted for. But it reveals the most, and it tells you things about these candidates that you’re not going to learn from whatever sort of handbill they put on your door. The beauty is this fall, a lot of those are going to happen online. So I’m not going to have to haul my butt to anywhere and actually sit there I can fold laundry and sit there and be bored by that meeting.
But where would you Where do you even Find out about stuff like that, usually, you’d have to go to a school board website, you’d have to look up local news articles. I mean, if you if you’re fortunate enough to have a local newspaper in your town, which is getting more rare these days, but if you have one, then they will cover this kind of thing.
And they will certainly delineate some of the positions that people are taking on things like curriculum or school is going to be open. What’s their stance on issues, local newspapers are really the only sort of Media Resource you can go to. Other than that, you may have to like download notes about the meeting, you may have to oftentimes these meetings are transcribed and you can get the transcript from your city or your school district.
Hilary Erickson 11:37
Oh, that’s a good idea. Because it probably be easier to skim through what’s important.
Jeremy Pope 11:41
I have to admit to the degree when I like really interested in this I tend to want to look at videos or other things like that because it is a lot of effort to sort of get to the school board meeting, sit down, spend the whole evening when you are really actually only interested in about 10 minutes, probably Yeah, for sure.
Hilary Erickson 11:56
There is a lot of real boring stuff that those What about as we had, you know more like bigger elections? Do you have a way? I mean, obviously, you’re gonna look at their debates. Do you put any weight in the ads that I see all the time on the YouTubes?
Jeremy Pope 12:11
I mean, I like I as a political scientist, I like the ads, but I’m consuming them in a different way. Just sort of like, is this a skillful ad? Do I think work? What do I think? What’s the theory underneath this ad, it’s probably not useful for most people. I think I would, in a weird kind of way.
I think getting ready to be a good citizen has more to do with yourself than it does with the candidates. And it’s good to be honest with yourself if you’re the kind of person who really just wants to support Republicans or Democrats. And that’s a very logical position to take in many ways. Because, you know, you may just be so well represented by one of the parties, you should just do your best to try to vote for people that are connected to one of those parties.
Oftentimes, even in non partisan races, you can figure out who the democrat is or who the republican is, and you can just go that way. Now, if you’re not someone who fits cleanly inside the party’s political scientists think that these people in some sense to the degree they’re interested Elections should be thought of as issue public. So you want to think about, well, what is it? I actually care about myself? What are the issues that matter to me, and that is going to vary widely.
I mean, we don’t probably want to spend a lot of time on political science here. But one of the things we have found is that voters care about a wide array of things that you would be shocked to discover some people care about. I guess I’m trying to think of really good examples here.
Some people are really only interested in local property taxes, or zoning laws. Some people are really only interested in foreign policy. Some people care a lot about the economy. Some people this will resonate for you, Hillary, since it describes, we start dad care only about trade policy.
So what you care about as a voter is probably the one thing that you should go and research if you’re not just going to stick with a party. I’ll use myself as an example. If I were to think about the candidates. The thing that matters the most to me, tends to be something about civil liberties and is government respecting people’s civil liberties in various ways.
So for me, that’s kind of what I look for first in a particular candidate, I tend not to worry about a lot of other things that candidates are doing, because that’s just not as important to me. As you know, that particular set of issues might be.
Hilary Erickson 14:11
Yeah, I do find candidates websites suck, because I’m a website designer. So a lot of times I feel like you have to dig a little bit to find their positions. My big thing is healthcare, and half the time I can’t even find healthcare. So
Jeremy Pope 14:24
You know, I hear what you’re saying about how they suck. But think about it this way, is the website for you or for the candidate? And the answer is it’s for the candidate. And so their websites are not designed to help Hilary Erickson figure out who to vote for the websites are designed to figure out how they can raise money and how they can attract supporters and possibly get volunteers and their websites are actually pretty decent at that. There’s been some good academic work on this that shows that their websites do motivate their hardest core supporters and that’s probably what they care about more than informing people. Well, they’re ruining it for Hilary Ericksonruining it, ruining it,
Hilary Erickson 14:57
everyone needs a story brand, okay, I need a small Pitch on what you’re for. So I can decide if I want to buy your product or not. That’s fine.
Jeremy Pope 15:04
They tend to think they’re doing that in pictures and visuals. So if you look at the pictures on their websites, that’s what they think they’re showing you a good next time you go to a website look for pictures of like nurses. That’s healthcare, pictures of the outside. That’s the environment, pictures of family. These tell you what they’re they’re sort of trying to pitch their story.
Hilary Erickson 15:23
And oh, so I haven’t seen anybody with like a dagger to a baby’s throat. They’re all the same. All the pictures are the same. It’s a lie.
Jeremy Pope 15:32
Well, voters are voters are difficult to appeal to. And that’s one of the difficulties of elections.
Hilary Erickson 15:38
Yeah, okay. So vote early. If you’re going to vote by mail, vote early if you’re going to vote in person, right any other tips for the big vote day?
Jeremy Pope 15:45
I guess I will say one thing about consuming the news because there’s going to be so many vote by mail. There’s gonna be so much voting by mail. It’s very possible that we won’t know the next like late at night or the next morning exactly who won each state in the Presidential election, which is what the media will largely focus on. But this will drill down into lots of other elections where it may take them a while to count all the votes for Senate in, say, Arizona to give an example.
Hilary Erickson 16:10
Do they not pre count those votes? Like do they run them, you know, whenever they get them, and then they have the totals at 7pm on election day, or whatever we close,
Jeremy Pope 16:18
it varies a bit by state, but typically, no, they don’t do that. They start counting them on election day. Right. And partially because often, they only have to be postmarked a day or two before and the mail service is reliable and getting it there eventually, much of the time, but not perfect.
So there’s you know, they’re gonna wait on a number of those ballots to come in over time. I also think you’re gonna find another number of people who end up voting by mail in the last couple of days, and so those ballots won’t arrive until probably two or three or four days after election night.
If it’s if it’s way out of hand on election night, I guess you can assume that that tells us who won in any given election. But if it’s close, you’re going to need to wait and I would urge people to be patient. Getting the election results right is more important than getting Quickly,
Hilary Erickson 17:00
patience. That’s an interesting virtue that I haven’t discovered yet. There you go. All right. So that’s good information, especially because I think we’re all used to you know, that night expecting a big party. But as we learned the last presidential elections, things change.
Jeremy Pope 17:16
They do. And I it’s possible that will happen again, although it’s not elections are not always the same. It probably won’t be like the last election, but it might take a while to learn who won Michigan or Florida or any given state.
Hilary Erickson 17:28
All right, that’s good to know. All right, guys, so we have less than a month to get our ballots. And you know, even if you get that I loved when I used to vote in person because you know, Rosalie McKay back in AP history was always big on voting. So I used to pre mark my ballot because I would bring a kid in a stroller, you know, and so I would pre bark my ballot and then I would bring it in with me and I think that’s a great way because when I would get in the booth, I would get test anxiety like I don’t know, I can’t decide. So yeah, pre marked your ballot if you’re ready.
Jeremy Pope 17:56
Yeah, I think I do definitely do that. Most states voted out Mass mail out voter guides. And I would not go to the polls cold, I would at least have looked at that. Although we do know that a lot of people don’t vote for every single office and the different political scientists will give you different answers. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with choosing not to vote in a kind of principled way, if you just don’t think you know enough about a particular race to vote in that. But I do think it’s good to vote. And I encourage people to do it.
Hilary Erickson 18:22
Yeah, I will say that there are all types of like, offices that I have no idea like the treasure of like, Bureau of Land Management, I don’t know, like, there’s just a lot that I’m like, I don’t know, that’s really small. And how would I find you Google these people, and they may have a Facebook page, and that’s like it and they are both like, we’ll take care of your money,
Jeremy Pope 18:42
what for a lot of offices, that’s really all you need. And the election serves less as a really heated contest and more as an opportunity to make sure that if someone did something wrong, we could all find out about it and stop them two or three or four years later, right that’s that’s what elections in many senses really ought to be. See that? I know we’ve had not to think about them that way, because the presidential election is sort of built as a contest of ideological visions. But for you know, your secretary of state is kind of more is this person competent? Did they do anything wrong in the last four years?
Hilary Erickson 19:12
Well, in all the judges Don’t get me started on the judges
Jeremy Pope 19:15
Hilary Erickson 19:16
usually I just google the judges name and see if like they’ve had a prostitute lately. And then if not, then I approve them.
Jeremy Pope 19:23
Yeah, I have to admit, I’ll just get I’ll take another stand here. I don’t I don’t think it’s great that we vote for judges, I think they should be more independent of the electorate than they are in many states. But that’s not how we choose to do it. But we choose to often have what are called retention elections. And so yeah, if I were I tend to vote for all the judges, unless I think that judges done something wrong. And if I knew that he or she had that vote against
Hilary Erickson 19:43
well, and what a great idea like if, if you’re when you’re watching the news, just make like and you see some judge that you think did something unfair? You’ll never remember that by November. That’s true. You know, you could just get a Google note up and be like judge MacPherson, he’s a crapper. Not gonna vote for him.
Jeremy Pope 19:59
You know? I don’t know this judge MacPherson but
Hilary Erickson 20:02
I don’t know whether there’s probably one out there sorry judge MacPherson but I think person on anyway alright thanks for coming on I hope you guys get out the vote because it’s so important it’s just as important this year as every other year but I think we realized that maybe even those small ones are just as important as the big ones
Jeremy Pope 20:18
thanks for having me on Hilary!
Hilary Erickson 20:20
Okay, I hope you guys liked that episode, I think we get so caught up in the presidential election, you know, as I was watching the events of the spring unfold, I was thinking, we’ve got to take elections more seriously. You know, if you don’t like how something’s happening, you got to deal with it at your local election level that really makes a difference. And so I decided I wanted to do this podcast back then because sometimes I just don’t even know how to prepare like I was talking about, like the judges and the, the, you know, the treasurer’s of yada yada.
I just don’t know how to decipher what they do. And I think Jeremy is really right. In this instance, not all instances because he was my brother, decide what’s important to you and then vote off of those things. And so I think that was good guidance, and I’m hopeful that you guys will get out the boat. Thanks so much for joining us today. I hope we help smooth out a few of the scenarios in your life. We drop an episode every Monday and we always appreciate it when you guys share and review. Until next time, we hope you have a tangle free day!
Transcribed by https://otter.ai