Why Race, Religion and Gender are so Important in an Election

We’ve all seen it; age, religion, gender, race, etc. are continually propped up as reasons to vote for or against a candidate. We’ve even seen entire campaigns founded on the singular issue of a candidate’s race or gender or religion. All of which is strangely normal and accepted in our common American political culture.

Our bias can often impact the way we vote and we’re not even aware of it. Here’s what that looks like: I’m a hispanic Christian female, the candidate is a hispanic Christian female. In the absence of any other information about the candidate, I’m more inclined to vote for her based on the simple fact that we are similar, perhaps more similar than the other candidates. Why is this? A simple one-to-one rationalization can be pointed to as an explanation.

In the absence of any other information about a candidate, the low-informed or uninformed voter is left to guess at who will best represent them. The mind makes a rational association given the little data it is provided. In this case, race, gender and religion. If the other candidates are not as similar and little is also known about them, then the advantage goes to the similar candidate. Here’s the logic; we’re both female, we’re both hispanic, we’re both Christian therefore, this candidate is likely similar to me in other ways too. She will represent me better than the other candidates who do not look like me. Of course, given enough info about the candidates, this might prove to be exactly opposite.

As low-informed or uninformed voters, we draw on our powers of deduction in an attempt to make an accurate candidate selection. The sad truth is, many political campaigns are counting on us to be low-informed or uninformed voters. The entire political party system is built on the notion that voters can simply pick the party they identify with, and then vote based solely on party affiliation without any consideration of the candidate or their politics.

On Election Day and in the absence of candidate information or research, we’re given a choice:

- Do not vote because we are not well enough informed

- Vote, but only in those races where we are informed about all the candidates

- Vote in all races based on our ability to guess which candidates will best represent us

The last bullet is where most of us find ourselves. We want to do our civic duty by voting. We want a say in who our government leaders are. Unfortunately, it has become far too difficult and time-consuming to research each and every candidate on the ballot and where each stands on the issues that are important to us. This is where FourScore shines (Shameless plug). FourScore is able to help you identify which issues are most important to you and then match you up with the candidates on your ballot based on those important issues. Check it out.

HOW WE GOT HERE

As the founders of FourScore (myself included) were digging into the market to understand why something like FourScore is needed so badly, we discovered something that was hiding in plain sight. We discovered that identifiers like race, religion, gender, party affiliation and other differentiators were the primary factors in how a vast majority of people selected their representatives. This gave us further cause to pursue FourScore’s mission of helping voters pick their candidates based on the issues the voter identifies as important.

I recall a series of early product discovery meetings which included talks about a “demographic differentiator” feature. The feature was being discussed as an add-on to the political survey process FourScore provides its users to help them sort through important political issues. The feature would have allowed a voter to go beyond picking their most important political positions to include picking other types of important parameters such as: race, gender, religious affiliation, and many others. We thought, “sure, these things are important to people.” But, as we began to flesh out what a feature like this would look like and the potential ramifications it could have, it just didn’t sit quite right with the founding group. We knew that hiring an employee based on these types of parameters goes against FourScore policy and in fact is illegal. Yet, somehow that same standard and law does not apply when we select who we want representing us in government. Somehow, it’s totally acceptable.

“Why are we even considering this? Why is this acceptable?”

As we dissected this feature and began to realize how bizarre it is to pick representatives like this, we were forced to ask ourselves, “why”. Why are we even considering this? Why is this acceptable? What came next was a revelation in an understanding of the current political environment we see in the country and in our communities and why a tool like FourScore is absolutely critical to the survival of our civil American society and its democratic republic.

Each of us are different. Much of the political divide we’ve seen boiling over into violence and unrest over the years is a direct result of communities being boxed up and conscripted into the red camp or the blue camp. When communities of voters get informed about the issues and discover that, just like the candidates, they don’t fit neatly into one political box or another, the political party systems who are dependent upon low-informed voters begins to fall apart. Thus, we discover that it’s perfectly normal and dare I say it, okay, for us to be different because, each of us are different.

OUR DECISION

FourScore decided that including differentiating factors such as race, religion, and gender as a way to pick candidates goes against our mission of helping voters pick the candidates that best represent their political views. Therefore, factors such as these will not be included in the FourScore platform. It is important to note, there are political issues that include topics such as race, religion, and gender that are very important to many people. As such, we have made sure to include survey questions that pertain to those issues so voters and candidates can each weigh-in on the issues that are most important to them.

We continue to believe that people are beautifully unique. Each of us a kaleidoscope of thoughts, paths, and experiences, not one the same. It then only makes sense to us that your ballot selections reflect your uniqueness.