Vote with the Club this Primary Season

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

About ten years ago, while discussing elections, an acquaintance told me, "I vote my husband's ballot."

I had never heard that phrase before and was a little confused about what she meant. She explained that in her household, her husband followed politics and would make decisions about how to vote, and she followed his lead.

I was speechless. After what seemed like eons of awkward silence, I changed the subject.

In my mind, the chance to vote your own beliefs is so precious that I couldn't imagine essentially handing my ballot over to a spouse for completion.

But over the years, as I've pondered my acquaintance's approach, I realize that just as she did, we all tend to consult people and organizations we trust to help us make decisions about elections.

For instance, I collect newspaper editorial board recommendations, appreciating the insight of some and scoffing at the outrageousness of others.

And for more years than I care to disclose, I have scoured voter pamphlets and slate cards to see how the Sierra Club recommends I vote. That was before I started working here. Now I know that I can easily find Club recommendations by looking online.

After watching Sierra Club's endorsement process through a couple of elections, I am pleased to say that there is good reason to have confidence in the Club's endorsement recommendations.

These recommendations are developed by a series of volunteer-led committees and generally include a written questionnaire and interviews. Checks and balances are built in to balance pragmatism and idealism.

The candidates' positions on a range of environmental issues are considered. The endorsed candidates are not selected based on any single litmus test issue. But rest assured: There are no climate-change deniers among them.

The candidates' viability is also considered. Will they actually be able to win the election? Our volunteers are willing to take risks on good candidates. But they also want to make sure they aren't inadvertently encouraging splitting the vote during the open primary in a way that allows a bad candidate to be one of the top two who goes on to the general election.

The result is a selection of endorsed candidates who voters can expect to be aware and knowledgeable about key environmental issues. The legislative candidates can usually be counted on to vote with the environment, especially on the big issues. The candidates for statewide office can usually be counted on to side with the environment as they direct their offices' policies.

You can find a link to a complete list of Sierra Club California's endorsements for state assembly and senate seats and statewide office holders on our website page devoted to elections.

So far, in the statewide office holder category, Sierra Club California has endorsed Betty Yee for Controller, John Chiang for Treasurer, Dave Jones for Insurance Commissioner, and Tom Torlakson for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The endorsement page is updated frequently as new endorsements come in, so be sure to check back now and again.

And if you, like my acquaintance, choose to vote another person’s ballot, fair enough. Just make sure that person visits our endorsements page when making selections.


Kathryn Phillips

Kathryn Phillips

Sierra Club California is the Sacramento-based legislative and regulatory advocacy arm of the 13 California chapters of the Sierra Club.