The issue: Voting wisely is as important as voting securely.

What we think: Voters must do their part to vote smart.

Tell us what you think: Send us an email at editorial@csbj.com.

Russia ran a massive interference campaign in the 2016 election and hasn’t let up since. Intelligence agencies warn China, North Korea and Iran are also targeting this year’s federal election. Across the country, states are purging voter rolls, shuttering polling locations and using hackable, error-prone voting machines. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that come November, every voter will have a say.

But when it comes to election security and voter confidence, El Paso County and Colorado are ahead of the curve. In 2018, The Washington Post called Colorado “the safest state to cast a vote,” and the state scores high on the Perceptions of Electoral Integrity Index.

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Unlike many states, Colorado makes it easy to vote and is paving the way as an election security leader. On the list of measures cutting vulnerabilities: rigorous physical security, paper and mail-in ballots, logic and accuracy tests, risk-limiting audits, oversight at polling locations, plentiful ballot drop boxes, and up-to-date voting machines disconnected from the internet.

As El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman (see this week’s profile) says, “We make it the easiest place to vote, but the hardest place to cheat.”

The state and the county have done their part to make the elections work. Have you done yours?

Being a smart voter means insisting on facts and digging for information. And despite the world at our fingertips, in some ways that’s harder than ever.

“The rise of social media; the proliferation of information online, including news designed to deceive; and a flood of partisan news are leading to a general exhaustion with news itself,” Sabrina Tavernise and Aidan Gardiner wrote in The New York Times in November. “Add to that a president with a documented record of regularly making false statements and the result is a strange new normal: Many people are numb and disoriented, struggling to discern what is real in a sea of slant, fake and fact.”

With months of no-holds-barred campaigning ahead, we have our work cut out for us — and stepping away isn’t an option. People who say they “aren’t political” are fooling themselves. Apathy has real political consequences; so does ignorance. Refusing to do the work of citizenship affects every outcome of every election, and those outcomes impact every detail of the ways you’re free — or not — to chase your dreams, do your work, keep your health, pursue an education, build your wealth, care for your family. This is the nitty-gritty of democracy.

In the midst of political volatility, media literacy — knowing how to cut through spin, disinformation, fearmongering and bot-driven social media blitzes — is more crucial than ever. “Fake news,” disinformation and deception are powerless if you don’t buy them or share them. You can ensure your news sources reflect reality, not just the reality you wish for. It’s time to do your due diligence and dig out good information.

But how?

First, step outside your screen-and-social-media echo chamber. You have one, and so do your political opposites. Social media is often a crutch — so consider research and engagement your rehab.

This list of trusted fact-checking sources will help:

• VOTE411 (vote411.org) offers state-by-state candidate and ballot measure information.

• AP Fact Check (apnews.com/APFactCheck) offers fact-checking by Associated Press journalists worldwide.

• AllSides Media Bias Ratings (allsides.com/media-bias/media-bias-ratings) rates the bias of nearly 600 outlets.

• Mediabiasfactcheck.com (mediabiasfactcheck.com) checks 3,000+ sources and offers Factual News Search.

Finding the best information is our responsibility as citizens, Broerman says. Tackle it with the methods and persistence you’d bring to buying a car or a home.

He points to the words of Benjamin Franklin, leaving Independence Hall on the last day of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, as citizens awaited the news of the government the founders had crafted. Elizabeth Willing Powel, an influential political thinker, called out, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A republic … if you can keep it.”

It’s incumbent on us to keep a representative democracy, Broerman said, by being well informed.

Our democracy is worth your time and effort. Here in Colorado, your vote will be counted. Make it count. 

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