Stoffa: Don’t vote without doing due diligence

Gabriel Stoffa

The early voting hoopla began Thursday in Iowa, allowing for even more forecasting to draw our attention and spin headlines as we count down the final 40 days.

I can understand how some folks already have their minds firmly made up. Really, there is little reason for a person to not have a strong leaning about whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney suits them better. Declaring yourself an “undecided” right now might sound fashionable, but don’t let it be a reality.

During an episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Maher went so far as to describe undecideds as “dipshits” or “nincompoops,” saying they should “stay home, because you probably couldn’t find your polling place anyway.”

While I disagree with Maher’s choice of words, I have to say I agree people should not be declaring themselves “undecided” anymore; luckily you don’t have to find your polling places due to early voting measures.

The three debates coming in October will likely only further lock in your decision for who to vote for, but those debates might sway you to change your mind. Particularly for students and youth embarking in their first presidential election who have been indoctrinated into their parent’s or family’s preferences for far too long.

And that is what I want to address fully. There are a great many folks out there desperately ill-informed about the issues. They get their “facts” during commercial breaks or before YouTube videos from attack ads, which are not very worthwhile information-wise; or from various TV “news” programs that aren’t just news but biased talking heads working to spin particular partisan politics.

And let me tell you, brother, if you get all your information from TV and don’t spend a few hours doing research online on your own, your knowledge of the topics is woefully lacking. I mean, if you believe all of what you are presented on TV, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

So here is what I ask of all those claiming to be undecided, or even those who claim to support Obama or Romney — or hell, even lesser-known candidate Gary Johnson, but who are making their decision based on limited examination of what those candidate offerings portend:

Don’t vote early, not yet at least. The three presidential debates, and a nifty vice-presidential debate for good measure, will have come and gone by Oct. 23, leaving you two entire weeks to fill out a form to cast your vote before you would have to show up in person to use one of those damnable, potentially confounding voting booths.

First presidential debate: Oct. 3 University of Denver, Denver, Colo.

Vice presidential debate: Oct. 11 Centre College, Danville, Ky.

Second presidential debate: Oct. 16 Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.

Third presidential debate: Oct. 22 Lynn University, Boca Raton, Fla.

All debates will take place from 9 to 10:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Listen to what is said in the debates over a few frothy pints, or whatever other libation appeals to you. Go with your friends and colleagues or whomever tickles your fancy, so long as you pay attention. What you hear just might catch your ear, and get you to look further into a topic you previously thought you supported but now question.

That isn’t to say the debates will be perfect, or even really worth it given the rather scripted feeling of them; nearly everything to be said is available online already. But for those that loathe researching and reading during their free time — a ridiculously large percentage of folks in this country, by my reckoning — all you have to do is DVR your regular programming for a Wednesday, a Thursday, a Tuesday and a Monday night for just 90 minutes each.

Or DVR the debates. If you are truly unable to spend an hour and a half each of those nights, by recording the debates you can fast-forward through commercials so in total for all the debates you’ve invested maybe four hours.

Four hours of your time, at your leisure, to better inform you about who next will lead the future of America and influence the future of the world is a remarkably good investment. And if things go as I hope, you’ll feel the need to look a little further into a particular issue, or become inclined to discuss the topics with family or friends that might also have questions.

Then fill out your early voting form or wait for election day and make a more informed vote. Voting without doing due diligence is an option, but it is just what many politicians want you to do. Voting without knowing is how the scoundrels make it to office and then screw you over.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite movies about politics:

“Figuring things out for yourself is practically the only freedom anyone really has nowadays. Use that freedom.” — “Starship Troopers