Make sure your vote is informed

Thomas Hummer

Fellow citizens, as you probably already know, election day is upon us. Election day is the one day when everybody should exercise democracy and take advantage of the rights we’ve been given by making decisions for our country. It’s the one day in which we should embrace the fact that we’re all statistics and prove what we can do when we band together.

I know this isn’t the first time you’ve all been pressured to get to the booths or send in your absentee ballots, and it probably won’t be the last. People make such a fuss about the importance of voting that it’s become very cliche and actually obnoxious at times. But no matter how much this is emphasized in our culture, there is something worse than not voting at all: voting for the wrong reasons.

It seems as though our country is in a constant civil war– that between the Democrats and Republicans. As contemporary media has allowed information to become available very quickly, it’s easier for common people to become not only politically savvy, but politically active. So anymore, ignorance is no excuse to not get involved, and far before the pressure to vote comes the pressure to choose a side.

But with so many issues to have an opinion on, how can there only be two parties to choose from? A true, pure-blood Republican or Democrat would have to adhere entirely to every aspect of the party’s platform, which is nearly impossible or at least quite rare. For the same reason, even if a certain candidate doesn’t agree with every aspect of the platform, it’s just as uncommon for a potential voter to see eye-to-eye with that candidate. No two people are going to agree on every single moral or political topic, so how are we supposed to get behind any candidate at all?

At this point, the focus comes away from those running for office and back to us, the voters. When so many voters disagree with every candidate, they have two options: 1) choose between the lesser of two or more evils, or 2) don’t vote at all. In the first case, you’re voting for a candidate simply because they aren’t the other candidate(s), which goes completely against the spirit of voting in the first place. However, if you go with option two, a feeling of guilt is instilled and society portrays you as a worthless citizen. Welcome to America! The choice is yours.

While this is an unfortunate dilemma for many, the problem is that most people don’t even get to this point. Before you can find yourself in this pickle, you actually have to become knowledgeable of your own views, a journey on which many don’t bother to embark. A lot of people will simply inherit the beliefs of their parents or join a party based on one or two common beliefs, whereas if they did simple research they may find that they don’t agree with a majority of that party’s opinions. Even if you did do this years ago, it’s important to keep yourself updated, as party lines and platforms change constantly. Once again, you may find that your party’s or your own views have shifted.

Instead of seeing election time as an overwhelming responsibility to exercise your given rights, see it as an opportunity for self-discovery. The only way we can truly believe something for the right reasons is to question it and be skeptical of ourselves. In the process, we’ll either find that we don’t agree with what we thought we believed, or we will reconfirm our beliefs– both of which show self-improvement. So I encourage everyone to do a little research on this year’s candidates and learn what they stand for before you decide to vote for them. You might even learn a thing or two about yourself in the process.