Alee Quick

Alee Quick

Voters should be informed – not misled

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By Alee Quick

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was distributed by Capitol News Illinois on behalf of the News Literacy Project. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.

The world of Illinois politics is notoriously wild at times, and this year’s midterm election season is holding true to form.

Disagreements on policy issues are the bread and butter of campaign clashes, and we’ve seen plenty of those. But we’re also seeing misinformation, from misleading political mailers to memes that peddle outright falsehoods about the controversial SAFE-T Act. The legislation addresses criminal justice issues including use-of-force standards and training for police, and ends cash bail in 2023.

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Alee Quick

I’m not here to debunk any specific claims. Rather, I want to share some resources you can use to find credible information to make your own decision. These simple news literacy tips will help you navigate the information you’re likely to see this election cycle, so that when you cast your ballot, you can be sure you’re not swayed by mis- or disinformation.

First, an introduction: I’m Alee Quick; I live in Carbondale, and I work for the News Literacy Project. NLP is a national nonpartisan educational nonprofit that seeks to teach news literacy skills to help people be informed rather than misled – something that’s especially important during election season. I also worked for several years as an editor at The Southern Illinoisan, where I covered many elections.

Here are my top three tips to avoid falling for election misinformation between now and Nov. 8:

  • When your emotions flare, take a step back.

If a political ad or social media post makes you angry, scared, sad or even excited or hopeful, take that as a cue that you need to pause before you like, share or forward. Content that provokes a strong emotion overrides our rational thinking and prompts us to take immediate action – even if that action isn’t the best way forward. When you feel that wave of emotion, take a step back, then open another tab in your browser and do a quick search online to confirm whether the message that has gotten to your emotions is accurate.

  • Search like a pro.

Most of us turn to a search engine like Google if we want to fact-check a claim. Doing your own search can be especially helpful for finding the original context of a candidate’s quote or double-checking the content of a viral meme – especially if it’s a screenshot. You can use quotation marks to find websites that contain an exact phrase, limit your results to standards-based news outlets, narrow the timeframe of your search, verify a photo through a reverse image search and more. You can also use Google to search content on one specific website.

  • Look for information about voting from reliable sources.

Why might you want to limit your search to specific sites? Some of the most common misinformation around election time is about the mechanics of voting itself – how, when and where to vote. When it comes to casting your ballot, the most reliable information comes from the government agency in your area that oversees the election.

In Illinois, the State Board of Elections works with local election authorities to administer the election. At elections.il.gov, you can find the status of your registration – including your polling place and what congressional district you’re in – as well as information about voting by mail and how to contact your local election authority.

We get to vote early here in the Prairie State, and your local election authority – a county clerk or municipal or county election commission, depending on where you live – will post information about early voting hours and locations. If you want to see what’s on your ballot, your local election authority usually posts that online, too.

If you want to take a deeper dive into the greater problem of election misinformation, how to avoid it, and how to talk to loved ones who may have fallen for it, my organization is hosting three free webinars – starting Oct. 18 – in which we’ll discuss those topics in depth. We also have a lot more resources at newslit.org/election2022/.

Your vote matters, and I hope you’ll participate in this year’s election. But make sure you’re well-informed about the candidates and issues before you mark your ballot. Credible information from reliable sources will help you navigate this wild election season with confidence.

Alee Quick is the civic marketing manager for the News Literacy Project.

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