The first thing to note is that European elections (in the UK at least – though the rest of this post will apply EU-wide) have a stupidly complicated voting system. This video should explain how it works. (Likewise, a lot of us are unclear on just how the EU works and what it is that the European Parliament does – this video should explain quickly and easily.)
To make matters more complicated, political parties also tend to work slightly differently when it comes to European issues – not least thanks to the political Groups in the European Parliament.
As such, it’s worth finding out how your own opinions tally with the party you’re thinking of voting for. I’d suggest checking out both VoteMatch.eu (alternatively VoteMatch.co.uk) and EUprofiler.eu – answer their short series of policy questions, and they should give you a good indication of where you stand in relation to the parties and political groups. (Assuming they’re working – both are coming under heavy traffic at the moment, and are going down a lot under the strain.) A discussion of the pros and cons of both sites by the Telegraph can be found here.
If you’re UK based and want to check out a party’s policies in more details, check out this handy list of links to the manifestos of ALL the UK parties standing. The BBC also has a handy overview of all the UK parties on offer.
However, don’t forget that all the UK political parties (bar the Conservatives and – if they get a seat – the BNP) will be part of a political Group in the European Parliament, and each of these Groups (effectively a coalition) will also have its own policy objectives. A handy roundup of the Group manifestos can be found at the handy EurActiv EU news and policy site.
To find out who your current MEPs are (multi-member constituencies, you see – you have more than one), and how they’ve performed in the job, try MiCandidate.eu or VoteWatch.eu – which has the added benefit of a ranking system, by which we can see how MEPs compare to each other based on attendance to votes, questions asked, speeches made, and so on. Both sites also – if you have a poke around – have some handy resources for checking out the policy platforms of the various political parties and groups EU-wide.
Finally, a passionate explanation of why your vote is important, and why you should care – no matter what your political opinions.