But the blind dictum that everyone must vote (no matter how ignorant or out-of-touch they are), somewhat misses the point. Many of us never got that voting is as much a privilege as it is a responsibility.
If we partake in that privilege without giving it the respect it requires, then we haven’t fulfilled our responsibilities at all.
Some folks still will drone on and on about voting and “civic duty:”
People who don’t vote are “deadweight.” They are lazy citizens and they contribute nothing. True, true.
Yet I find these same “Voting Cheerleaders” don’t actually bother to educate themselves about the issues or even the candidates on the ballot.
“Deadweight” at least is somewhat neutral, in neither contributing to, nor interfering with, the greater good.
But a chronically uninformed citizen who participates religiously out of some amputated sense of “duty” is actually pushing us backward with his ignorance. Every uninformed ballot he casts is a vote against the principles of representative democracy. That’s because one who hasn’t taken time to think critically about the issues is isn’t in a position to vote in a way that conveys to representatives how they ought to represent him.
Why It’s Wrong To Guess
Many of us have been there, inside the voting booth, staring at some obscure amendment for the first time, and suddenly realizing we knew nothing about it.
How embarrassing. Our only task was to choose Yes or No—do we or don’t we personally support this measure?
It wasn’t a trick question; in fact it was a very simple assignment. All we had to do was ponder the issue and decide how we felt about it before the Tuesday deadline. Only, we hadn’t bothered to look at the sample ballot. We thought could just wing it, that we’d instantly know exactly how we felt about any topic the ballot might throw our way.
And now we’re screwed.
We try to decipher the hidden meanings, try to figure out who stands to win or lose if we vote yes or no. But it’s no use, now we have to guess. We literally don’t know the right answer to what our opinion is. We have to guess, like a midterm we forgot to study for. If we’re lucky we saw something on TV about it, a guy in a tie bashing or praising this initiative, a guy in a tie who paid good money to some network for 20 seconds of its airtime, knowing that was all the time it took to brainwash us. We go with the guy in the tie. We could have just as easily flipped a coin. In fact, odds are flipping a coin would have been more effective, since the guy in the tie most likely represented, and was funded by, some special interest antithetical to the wellbeing of The People.
The appropriate response in these scenarios, when something comes up on a ballot that you don’t know or understand, is to leave the item blank. Contrary to how guessing might feel to you, personally, there’s no benefit to it. In fact, it is your civic duty to not guess. It’s actually nothing at all like that midterm exam, where a wild guess might by chance turn out to be the correct response.
If you don’t know you’re position on a legislative initiative, taking any position at all is by definition the wrong answer.
The entire state of South Carolina proved that earlier this year. Voters in that state’s Democratic primary were unable to recall which name on the ballot belonged to their party’s legitimate US Senate candidate, and which one belonged to the political nobody facing public obscenity charges. Rather than leaving it blank, South Carolina Democrats guessed—based on the method of picking the cooler-sounding name—and guessed wrong…
Now they’re stuck with this guy.
Conclusion: Closing Thoughts For Voting Cheerleaders
So know this, Voting Cheerleaders. Elections aren’t just about backing your favorite Republican or your favorite Democrat in your state’s Congressional race. The rest of the ballot is important too.
For instance, several proposed amendments on my state’s 2010 ballot carry potentially huge ramifications for the future of Florida. Does anyone care about them?
I hoped so. But apparently most of them don’t care yet, or won’t care at all.
I started a Facebook group so my friends and fellow citizens here could discuss these issues. I envisioned it as a place where we could all share our $.02; where all views would be welcome; where we could learn from each other instead of from the well-funded propaganda campaigns.
So far less than ten people have joined.
Their plan, I fear (to the extent they plan on voting at all) is to watch TV when it comes to the candidates, and just wing it on the legislative measures.
This is why I believe we’ve missed an important civics lesson. We’d all be better off if these friends of mine stayed home.