…unless you have done your research with multiple sources, and multiple types of sources, and given the candidates and issues thoughtful consideration.
And this does not mean simply listening to your friends, coworkers, and the sources of information which you know will reinforce what you already believe to be true.
Before you support any sort of Get-Out-The-Vote campaign, make sure that campaign focuses on targeting qualified voters. Not just citizens who have correctly registered, but registered citizens who have fulfilled their obligation to have performed truth-seeking research, applied unbiased logic to the facts during their research and tested their conclusions through discussion with equally qualified voters who have come to different conclusions. That’s what it takes to be an informed voter. Voting with any less preparation is irresponsible and self-indulgent.
Any right comes with an equal or greater responsibility. Just as, for example, Second Amendment rights come with responsibilities, so does the right to vote. Anyone who possess a gun must be well trained, take refresher courses and practice frequently. If the gun owner falls short of that, they should either sell their gun(s), or put them away permanently.
It might be clearer if we look at a more common activity, the “right” to drive. The word “right” seems out of place here, doesn’t it? Don’t we look at driving as a privilege? We need to be trained to drive, pass a test, pay, and follow the rules of the road. If we fail anywhere along the line, we risk losing our driving privileges.
Why isn’t the same true of voting? I get it that we can’t test people prior to voting, but people should test and qualify themselves. In the same way that people should never get behind the wheel if they are unfit to drive (tired, angry, using any mind-altering substance, etc.), no one should vote if they are unprepared. Now don’t come back at me with how irrational, uninformed, and generally wrong other (generally opposed) voters are as a way of justifying your casual vote. Stand out. Be responsible. Set an example.
Initially, only white males who owned property could vote. The good news is that back then, we had an informed electorate. Voters were informed, had “skin in the game” (property, perhaps some level of participation in the Revolution, etc.), and overall voted a carefully considered ballot.
Example: Have you ever heard of Alexander Hamilton’s “Federalist Papers”? Some have, and very few have read them. If you were assigned them as reading with a major paper due in a college class, you might consider yourself put upon and complain. These dense works were originally published as a series in local papers, basically the only news source then, and voters read them and decided if they agreed with Hamilton. (No quick glance and a “like” or a quick, negative comment on Facebook.) And agree with Hamilton or not, the reader’s political brains were challenged and exercised. This limited group of voters had high voting standards.
The bad news is the the voting franchise was unfairly limited. Over time, we have, correctly and belatedly, added citizens of many types to the list of eligible voters–notably blacks and women. As we expand the voting rolls, voting standards need to remain high. In fact, as our society, economy, and the world around us all become more complex and more impactful as we go through our everyday lives, voting standards need to be raised. The moral and political need to become more democratic in expanding the voting franchise is a poor excuse for diluting the quality of the research and thought that goes into deciding important issues and electing the men and women to lead us at all levels of government. We are voting to decide everything from how our local roads and sewers are built and maintained, to how we are taxed, to deciding who the leader of the free world will be for the next four years.
Here’s a test: If yours was the only vote during any given election, meaning that the way you voted would decide that election, wouldn’t you dig in and do a good job of researching the issues and candidates before voting? I certainly hope so. And believing that in a democracy every vote counts equally, we can do no less. And we should expect other voters to do the same. And you cheat the voters who did their homework if you don’t do yours.
Get out the vote? No.
Get out the qualified, well researched and thoughtful vote? Absolutely.
Will Luden, writing from my home office at 7,200 feet in Colorado Springs.
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