Tuesday, November 8, 2011

On voting

Women have always been able to vote in the US in my lifetime. In my mother's and grandmothers' as well. The 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, 91 years ago.

Would you believe Mississippi didn't ratify it until 1984? Actually, considering the state of women's rights in Mississippi, I guess I do.

I could write a lot about women's rights, such as the fact that the Equal Rights Amendment still has not been ratified and is not the law of the land, but this is an election day. I want to concentrate on elections.

Here in Bloomington, there are only 2 contested races. Pretty abysmal. Most of the new officials who will be sworn in on January 1st were elected by default during the primary because there is a full slate of Democrats but very few Republicans running. That's just sad.

Frankly, I don't think partisan politics really have a place in local elections. Most of what our local leaders do has very little to do with the big polarizing issues, anyway. And we would have a much more robust local election if more candidates were on the ballot. Really, does it matter which party someone is from at this level?

I would be willing to state that most, if not all, local offices are not political in that sense. Who cares if the recorder or auditor or a judge is a Republican or Democrat? They have a very specific job to do, which should really be more dependent on actual qualifications.

Add to that the local issues that really sway voters tend to have nothing to do with party. Can we let our candidates run on those issues?

One of the contested races this year is for the 3 city council at-large seats. The big issue that seems to be dividing voters here is I-69. And there is no consensus within either party. The 5 candidates run the gamut from against to absolutely for, with most being more practical and somewhere in the middle.

There are nuances in how they feel about other local issues, but again, it doesn't really split by party so much as by personal experience. And that's good. I don't like politicians who pick their stance on an issue by party (or voters who vote a straight ticket). That means they aren't thinking. It means they haven't learned that there's an awful lot of gray.

Me, I like to be an informed voter. I don't have the time to learn everything about the candidates, but I try to learn a little. It's pretty simple why: the last time I voted without having a clue who I was voting for, I accidentally helped elect someone who stood for the exact opposite of what I wanted, who turned out to be a criminal.

I've voted in almost every election for which I have been eligible. I think I may have missed some local elections when I was in college, but that's ok since I had no clue. I also consciously skipped voting in the first local election after moving to Bloomington because I didn't feel like I had a handle on the city or the candidates. I made a point to educate myself before the next one, though.

So what is the point of all this? Even with uncontested races, it is worth exercising one's right, privilege, and duty to vote. Even if someone is uncontested, you can abstain from voting. But that doesn't mean anything unless you cast a ballot. See, the math is such that if 1000 people vote in the election but only half vote for an uncontested candidate, that means the other half DIDN'T. That's significant. It may not sway the vote, but it makes a statement.

So vote. Please. Just do it. Seriously, it took all of 5 minutes this morning, including getting the boys in and out of the car, walking down the hall to the polling location, checking in, filling in the ballot, and getting our nifty "I voted" stickers.

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