To Vote or Not to Vote, That Is the Question

 

 

I got a ballot in the mail the other day. On it were the names of people I’d never heard of and I was asked to vote Yes or No for each of them.

To be fair, there was a page included with a one paragraph bio on each candidate. From this I was supposed to decide if these were the people I wanted overseeing my portfolio. Generally, I toss these mailings into the recycle and get back to my life. But this time I stopped.

Is this what the average American voter feels like, I pondered.

  • Is this why the US is 31st out of 35 democracies in voter turnout (in 2012 presidential election)?
  • Is this why voter turnout in the 2014 midterm election saw only 36% of eligible voters turning out? 
  • Is this why there were 47 million citizens who voted in the 2012 presidential election that DID NOT vote in the 2014 midterm? 

 

Is it a matter of feeling like you have not enough information to make an intelligent decision?

Is it a feeling that it won’t really matter which one gets in; everything will stay the same?

Is it a belief that it’s all too complicated, too base, too confusing to spend time understanding?

I didn’t know.

 

What I did know was that I’ve taken politics seriously most of my adult life and that I’ve not understood those who claimed to not have a political opinion.

I believe with George Orwell that people wind up with the government they deserve and I embrace the words of Abraham Lincoln, believing wholeheartedly in a government of the people by the people and for the people.

So, I pulled the ballot (and the accompanying page of bios) out of my recycle bin and did some research on each of the companies to which these folks were connected. Google makes that rather easy.

I found I sought just enough information to not disqualify them. I wanted to vote YES. I wanted it to be easy. Not finding any outstanding warrants or bankruptcies or assault charges,  I voted “Yes” for all of them and mailed the ballot in.

 

 

How about you? Are there elections in which you haven’t voted? I hope you’ll tell us why.

[learn_more caption=”A bit of 50-years-ago history.  “] On March 12, 1968 Senator Eugene McCarthy (of Minnesota) ran in the New Hampshire Primary and won an unexpected 42% of the vote, threatening an incumbent president of his own party and paving the way for Robert Kennedy to enter the race soon after.  Votes matter. More on that in a few weeks. [/learn_more]

Next Week: My annual Daylight Savings Time rant (yawn).

23 Responses

  1. Carolyn
    | Reply

    I’m a bit fanatical about voting as I see it as a duty – mainly because I hope that like-minded people will stand up and be counted. So many people are just not inspired (I hesitate to use the word ignorant as I know a law professor who has never voted because he disapproves of the system in the UK). George Orwell was right

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks for starting us off from the UK today Carolyn. I’d love to chat with that law professor! I was explaining “proportional representation” to my 11-year-old granddaughter last week. While it wouldn’t work here, with our checks and balances system, I’ve long thought it a wise way to form a new government.
      Janet Givens recently posted…To Vote or Not to Vote, That Is the QuestionMy Profile

  2. susan scott
    | Reply

    I believe it is essential to vote – if one believes in the credo of government of the people, by and for the people. It’s another story if one stands apart from what the government purports. One’s vote and voice is a right; use it. Whether for against, use it … don’t lose it. Thanks Janet ..
    susan scott recently posted…#WATWB New brooms sweep cleanMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you Susan. I too see it as a right, and a privilege. One that requires a bit of energy. South Africa’s voter turnout in 2000, I recently learned, was about as bad as ours is currently — fewer than 50% of eligible voters turned out. Yet, in your last election you had a record turnout and things are now looking up for South Africa. I pray I’ll experience the same turnaround. I wonder if it’s that old ailment — we take so much for granted until we are in danger of losing it.
      Janet Givens recently posted…To Vote or Not to Vote, That Is the QuestionMy Profile

  3. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Hi Janet. I’d be curious to see my own voting record. While I’m pretty religious about voting in November elections, I wouldn’t be shocked if I have missed the odd special election here and there. Some of these are obscure, single issues and not at all well publicized. Like you, I almost never vote as a shareholder, which I’m almost embarrassed to admit. It’s mostly due to the time and hassle of familiarizing myself with issues outside my comfort zone, combined with a feeling that my vote likely won’t make a difference. On a different but related note, I did once cast a third party presidential vote, knowing, as a citizen of an overwhelmingly red state, that it wouldn’t affect our electoral tally. Still, in a way, it was arguably akin to not voting, or at least some might argue…
    Tim Fearnside recently posted…One Big LieMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh Tim, you nailed it I think, when you wrote, “It’s mostly due to the time and hassle of familiarizing myself with issues outside my comfort zone, combined with a feeling that my vote likely won’t make a difference.” Aren’t these exactly the issues with which the majority of our electorate struggle? The time and hassle of learning something new plus that sense that one vote can’t possible make a difference!!

      One positive from this last election, I believe, is the increase in activism, the increase in the interest in how things work, in what’s happening (more of a WTH is happening?), and an increase in willingness to take a stand. I find hope in that, even though it took tragedy and the huge potential for even greater tragedy to bring us to this point.

      Btw, we vote here in Vermont on Town Meeting Day (this Tuesday) right in the same room. A few years ago the town voted to vote by Australian ballot for a few major budget issues, ones that used to be voted on only by those attending Town Meeting. So, Town Meeting came and went and off I went home. It was only the next day when I woke up to realize I’d totally forgotten to go to the other side of the room and cast my vote. Shhhh; that’s my little secret. It happens (and you CAN get your voting record from your local elections board.)
      Janet Givens recently posted…To Vote or Not to Vote, That Is the QuestionMy Profile

  4. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — I, too, am of the USE IT OR LOSE IT mindset. I don’t want this right to ever be taken away, so I leverage it to the best of my ability.
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted…IntegratronMy Profile

  5. The Medical Mama
    | Reply

    I can honestly say I have voted in every presidential election. I try to vote in every local election we have. Sometimes that’s hard because these candidates don’t do a very good job of advertising for themselves. I just see signs all over poeple’s yards, etc. I think you are right that the average American doesn’t vote because it is confusing. I don’t think reading a paragraph about a candidate is a valid enough reason to vote for them. I believe we should be doing our research, but it shouldn’t be that hard. Candidates should “go big” like the presidential candidates do (minus the drama of that).

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks for joining us, Medical Mama. Welcome. Your comment reminds me that too often local Party meetings (both Democrats and Republicans have them regularly) are really boring. Your local League of Women voters might also be a good resource for you. Hope to see you here again. Please be sure to click that little CommentLuv button next time so we can get the link to your last blog post.
      Janet Givens recently posted…To Vote or Not to Vote, That Is the QuestionMy Profile

  6. Mary Jo Beebe
    | Reply

    My ah-ha this time of voting is that yes it is too complicated. But, it is also true that while I believe in voting and DO vote, I haven’t yet done what I need to do each election cycle. I haven’t even figured it out. What I mean is that the candidates for all these offices–and there are lots of them in the primaries–less in my choice of primary than in the red one–but still lots of people to know about.
    I have to figure out how to find out about their positions earlier than this. I have to go listen to them talk about their positions. I have to find out who they are from written materials as well. I have to be more involved. I can’t wait until the day before the election and search madly in the League of Women Voters guide, which for some reason is very lacking in information now and VERY difficult to search. It’s a job! And the local Dallas Morning News doesn’t make it easy for us either. I have to know some numbers–my precinct, my state region #, my Congress district # just to find out who the candidates are in my area because the paper places them in a long list with their numbers beside them, but doesn’t make is simple for us. Because Texas is not a blue state, I can’t even vote for all the judges that are going to be elected this cycle, but if the blues had some candidates in that area, I’d have another long list of people to find out about as well. It is YES very complicated just to vote in a primary!!

  7. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Hi Mary Jo. Welcome back. Your Board of Elections should have a card for you to carry in your wallet with all that necessary information: voting districts, precincts, etc. I hope you’ll check with them. Theoretically, political parties serve us by making the choice in candidates easier: the parties do the vetting and put up the candidate they think carries their message best. The problem has come about in the last few decades when folks who felt the parties weren’t addressing their needs, began to foment a bit of a revolution. It’s made the age-old game of politics much more easily corruptible. It’s a sad state of affairs.
    Janet Givens recently posted…To Vote or Not to Vote, That Is the QuestionMy Profile

  8. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    I always for, when overseas we got absentee ballots and we get the ballotts by mail here but after the last local election I am not sure I want to do that anymore. I sent the vote in and then within the next 3-4 weeks so much came out that I would have changed a couple votes. I think I will start doing what you did, google them. I harrass my kids to vote also but ended up u happy with one of them—I have to bite my tongue to keep from saying—how do you like it now? —as I don’t want to make him not vote this year!!

  9. cathi
    | Reply

    Great topic. Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit, there have been elections when I haven’t voted. I used to feel the most important elections were the ones for President or other higher offices. Now I realize those we elect for local positions are just as important and sometimes more meaningful because of the direct impact those politicians have in our neighborhoods.

  10. bernadette laganella
    | Reply

    When you see what the citizens of other countries have to go through in order to elect who will govern them, I don’t know how Americans cannot cherish this right and be up in arms about a foreign government trying to manipulate this most important of rights.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks Bernadette. Good point. I’d add what the suffragettes went through in the 1880s and early 20th century and the Freedom Fighters in the mid 20th century…..
      Janet Givens recently posted…Earth Day 2018My Profile

  11. The Recipe Hunter
    | Reply

    Hi Janet, Thank you for sharing your view on this topic with us over at Senior Salon.
    I am not into politics but do vote as and when required.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hello Esme. Senior Salon has been a grand place to discover new blogs and make new friends. And all I needed was a little silver in my hair. Thanks so much for taking it over and thank you Bernadette for getting it started. AND thanks too for your leadership on the Sharing Inspiring Promoting Bloggers (SIPBs) FB Group. I’d vote for you for head blogger mama in a nano second.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Earth Day 2018My Profile

  12. Brigid Gallagher
    | Reply

    I must admit to not always voting when I was younger, but I have voted at every election for the past thirty or so years. I live in Ireland now but I used to live in Scotland which has its own parliament thanks to its voters.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Yes indeed, thanks to its voters. I’ve developed a passion to learn all things Scot since discovering a paternal line to Scotland only three generations back (and getting hooked on the Outlander series of books a few years ago). Thanks so much for stopping by. Brigid, I hope you’ll check that little Comment Luv button next time you visit, so my readers can link to your blog, Watching The Daisies.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Earth Day 2018My Profile

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