Doubek: 10 big decisions to weigh when voting this year

SHARE Doubek: 10 big decisions to weigh when voting this year
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President Barack Obama voted early this year — Oct. 7 — while on a visit back to Chicago. Madeleine Doubek writes that the factors to weigh as a voter this year are myriad and complicated. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

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The shouting nearly is over. You’ve been inundated with ads and views and threats and lies. The hysteria fills your mailbox, your inbox, your social media streams and the airwaves.

It’s time to start doing your citizen homework before you vote. How will you cut through it all and cast a smart, thoughtful ballot?

Allow me to offer some help and a few things to consider as you contemplate your decisions.

OPINION Follow @MDoubekRebootIL

  1. You hear about and focus on the presidency often. It is important and it’s clear our next president will be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Has there been a more caustic campaign? I can’t recall anything like this one. Who is more likely to make you prouder? Who is more likely to keep you safe in an ever-shrinking, ever-violent world? Who has done their homework? Every Oval Office occupant fails along the way. Which one do you believe in your heart will fail less?
  2. It’s not just the White House that’s important. There’s a U.S. Senate race in Illinois. Do you want to end the Washington, D.C., gridlock? Does that mean you should pick the Senate candidate who matches the party of your presidential choice or should you pick the candidate who belongs to the party of the presidential candidate who’s expected to win? Or should you do the opposite and vote for balance between the executive and legislative branches? How much should the looming Supreme Court vacancy and the ones beyond enter into your decision?
  3. And then there’s the race for comptroller in Illinois, with Republican officeholder Leslie Munger and Democratic Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza. This campaign has been seen as yet another form of the proxy war between GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. Do you want someone handling the state’s checkbook and paying the bills who aligns with Rauner? Or do you want someone who will make it more challenging for Rauner to keep the state functioning as we continue to operate without a budget?
  4. Think about that more deeply. Because of the egos of Rauner and Madigan, Illinois has not had a revenue or spending plan since mid 2015. Every day we go without one, we increase the unpaid bills we’re all going to have to pay at some point as long as we stay in this state. By next spring, the latest estimate by Moody’s Investors Service is that we’ll have $14 billion in unpaid bills. There’s another $117 billion in pension debt and $44.3 billion in retiree health care costs for which we’re on the hook.
  5. Those numbers are too big to comprehend. What’s it mean? Got an extra $45,500 sitting around? That’s what the nonpartisan Truth in Accounting says every taxpayer would have to fork over for their share if the bills all had to be paid today. They don’t. But every day we wait costs us more. If Illinois officials simply decided to pay the $14 billion bill backlog by raising income taxes alone, our personal income tax rate would need to more than double, from 3.75 percent to 8.5 percent or more.
  6. You need to keep that in mind as you decide whom to support for comptroller and for your state representative and state senator. Do you want someone who really will put pressure on Rauner and Madigan to compromise? Which party and which candidate will get that done?
  7. While you’re mulling all that debt, do you want a chunk of revenue from gas taxes and license plate fees set aside only for roads and bridges forevermore, no matter what? Do you want that specified, like paying pensions is written in nearly permanent ink in the state constitution?
  8. How much did each candidate in your state representative and state senator races get from Rauner and the Republicans and from Madigan and the Democrats? Which candidate will be more beholden to party leaders based on that funding? You can get a good idea by typing in their names at illinoissunshine.org, the great campaign finance database by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.
  9. It’s clear that changing the way legislative districts are drawn isn’t something we’re ever going to get to vote on in Illinois. But House Democrats approved a pretty good revamp to the way it’s done last spring. That was a ploy so that all the candidates could tell you they’re in favor of redistricting reform. Make them prove it. Which candidates really will add to the pressure on Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to call for a vote and pass that House redistricting reform legislation as soon as possible?
  10. Which candidates will stand up to Rauner, Madigan and the rest of the party leaders and pressure them to compromise, end the impasse, save our social services and universities? Which candidates will lead and help save our homes and state?

Block out the shouting. Ignore the hysteria. Contemplate the future and consider all of the above. Vote with care and hope for the best outcome for our nation and our state.

Madeleine Doubek is publisher of Reboot Illinois.

Follow Madeleine Doubek on Twitter: Follow @MDoubekRebootIL

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