Your vote is important and you should stay informed on issues, people

Mark Hammontree

There’s a little moment in the sixth episode of season four of “The West Wing” that always stands out to me come campaign season. The episode debuts Joshua Malina’s character, Will Bailey, as an idealistic and determined campaign manager for a suddenly deceased congressional candidate.

A group of young volunteers approach Bailey to show off their get-out-the-vote posters which read, “It Doesn’t Matter Who You Vote For, Make Sure You Vote For.” Bailey thanks them for their work but suggests a minor rewrite to “No Matter Who You Vote For, Make Sure You Vote.”

Bailey’s point is subtle, but I think it’s one that many voting advocates miss too often. It very much matters who and what you vote for – that’s basically the whole point. And while it’s important to get as many voters out to the polls as possible, get-out-the-vote advocates and voters themselves should put in the effort to make sure they aren’t just voting but voting well.

By voting well, I don’t mean voting for a particular party, candidate or measure. There’d be no point in having an election if there were one obvious correct answer or candidate. Voting simply means being informed about whom and what you’re voting for and having at least some semblance of reasoning behind your choice.

A lot of people like to talk about voting as being a “civic duty,” and mostly I agree, but part of that “duty” has to be educating oneself on the issues and candidates you’re going to be voting for.

Personally, I’d rather someone just stay home if they’re just going to straight-ticket their whole ballot even though they’ve never even heard of most of the candidates, much less know their history or platforms. If you haven’t taken the time to learn how certain amendments or measures might affect local or state issues or if they will even do anything at all, it’s much better to just leave those spots blank than arbitrarily choose yes or no.

I fear the only information most people have on races and issues is the campaign material they’ve been fed through TV spots and mailers. Considering almost every candidate, regardless of party, does whatever they can to make their opponent look bad and themselves look great, you really should seek some outside objective sources of information.

You can start by looking up your district’s ballot online, going through them and trying to learn something about each race and measure. Read news articles, op-eds and candidates’ platforms and attempt to come to an informed decision. If you can’t decide or you don’t understand a certain issue, ask your friends or family for their opinions. If you still can’t come to a decision, then just skip that part of the ballot when you get to it Tuesday.

How you vote matters. It can mean the difference between moving forward as a state or at best staying the same and at worst moving backwards. So, if you’re registered and are planning on voting – I hope you are – please take today to read through your ballot. Take the time to come to an informed decision about how you’re going to vote, because your vote matters whom or what your vote is for.

So, no matter whom you vote for, make sure you vote. And make sure you vote well.

Mark Hammontree is a junior majoring in secondary education – language arts. His column runs weekly.