Voter Guide 2022: Going beyond party lines

This year, we asked candidates in WA races to fill out a multiple-choice survey. See where they stand on the issues that matter to you.

ballots on a table

Ballots are organized on a table in this file photo. Take a look at our voter guide for the 2022 Washington state primary election here. (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

I used to bring handwritten notes into the voting booth to help me mark my ballot, but that always felt a little like scribbling on my hand to cheat on a test (all theory, of course, I was not a test cheater). Vote-at-home elections (my name for vote-by-mail) have enabled me to develop my preferred voting style, without the embarrassing props.

Some people I know just choose all the Democrats or Republicans on the ballot. Other friends and family members vote for women, with a preference for BIPOC women, so they can work toward a more diverse and inclusive government (yes, we have actually had conversations about this). Some read up on every person on the ballot and make individual choices in every race. 

I am a two-issue voter. I need to know how candidates stand on certain issues — and how they have voted in office, if they are incumbents — in order to fill out my ballot. 

My need for this information is part of the genesis for Crosscut’s approach to our voter guide. The other reason for this approach, of course, is because we know many of our readers think in a similar way. Whether you are a one-issue voter or prefer to choose women or Republicans, you also care about certain issues that you know our lawmakers will likely vote on during their term in office. 

If you are worried about abortion rights after the Supreme Court’s June decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, you are likely to scrutinize the part of our voter guide on this topic. Or you could just choose all Democrats, as that party has told you to do, since Democrats are all pro-choice and Republicans aren’t. But that is not a true statement. 

Opinions on hot button issues like abortion are not tied to party affiliation. They are personal for politicians, just as they are personal for us. 

So, in our ongoing quest to get me — and all the other voters in Washington — the information they need to mark their ballots, we asked candidates for Congress and the Washington Legislature to answer a short multiple-choice survey on today’s issues. For each topic, from abortion to the economy, we gave them five choices and asked them to mark which choice came closest to their beliefs. 

Sounds simple, but it’s obviously not. We did our best to provide choices that cover most of the political spectrum, but we would have needed a lot more choices to include every unique perspective. We do think multiple-choice is a good way to nudge campaigning politicians straight to the point — and easily compare how candidates are likely to enact or vote on our legislation. It also fixed the problem from last year’s voter guide when some candidates wrote whole essays in response to our questions. Some candidates chose not to participate; others made a choice and then added context with a short explanation. 

Look closely at the issues section of our voter guide and you will see an interesting array of opinions that do not follow strict party lines. I filled out the survey myself to see where I stood and you can, too. Feel free to develop a party game around our survey. Send me the rules if you do. I think you will find that few of your friends and family members are as monolithically liberal or conservative as they might say they are. 

Let us know how you think our voter guide process could be improved by emailing me or by filling out the form on our methodology page, which also lists all the choices we gave the candidates. We provide this voter guide for our readers and we want to hear from you.

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