It is the scariest, downright most ominous day of the year because too many Americans do not vote. Those who do vote have bony, skeleton-like reasons for their choices. Too many go to the polls uninformed!
Even more chilling, Election Day 2014 is not a presidential election year, so pundits predict a very, very low turnout. Inconceivable, considering the school board elections, bond issues, and numerous propositions on the ballot! Voter participation and the various gaps that exist between presidential election years is definitely spooky in epic proportions!
Nevertheless, voting is our privilege. It carries inherent responsibilities or habits that many of us have not considered and/or neglected. Here are four for us to consider:
1. Avoid Desperately Seeking Perfection
There is no perfect candidate because there are no perfect people. To hem and haw and then write in a choice from your closest friends, is taking the easy way out. Typically people do this when neither political candidate inspires them. But I urge you to think twice. A write in vote is essentially a wasted vote. It is your right of course, but a waste nonetheless. So, instead of casting a stone at the candidates, cast your vote for the one whose record most aligns with your ideals and hopes for future generations.
Please understand that I don’t say this to demean this choice, if this is what you have decided to do, regardless. I say this because in my most anti-establishmentarian days, as a hippy wanna-be, I wrote in the names of esteemed aquaintances too. No matter that they were not running for office, and were more than slightly revolted by the whole idea. Still, I proudly scribbled in their name. My duty fulfilled, I moved on. What a waste! But we all know that hind-sight is 20/20.
2. Think Beyond Party Lines
I have lived long enough to be more pragmatic. My ultimate goal is to live simply but fully, to think clearly, love dearly and to pursue my goals with passion. If this sounds like lyrics from Godspel you are not far wrong. In my youth I wore two POW bracelets, my dad's old army fatigues (to his chagrin and my mom's despair), sported an afro and painted teal and pink flowers on my black face. But I was an adolescent then.
Now I realize that it takes more than gestures like these. Even though I would proudly wear the bracelets again, I doubt they did little to find and bring our lost warriors home. It takes votes and vigilance to safeguard the American ideals of the "Gettysburg Address", to "highly resolve -- that this nation-- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”. To do this we must then be in the habit of periodically reviewing the voting record of those who say they represent us and our values.
Arizona’s legislative site is a great place to begin your periodic search. Simply click on the name of a member of the House of Representatives and look at the bills he/she sponsored. Click on the Senate names, and look for similar information.
3. Voting is Not a Commemorative Act
Early in my days of voting, I recall that some of my ballots also served as homage to people in my family whom I thought would have been, should have been great leaders, but never had the opportunity. So I get it. The symbolic gesture of writing in a revered ones name honors them. But it is still a wasted vote. Those dear ones, whose legacy I still strive to live up to, would be the first to slap the back of my youthful head for throwing away a vote. Especially, since when as I look at my family tree, I can identify those ancestors who fought and died for this right. For me, at that point in my youth, I failed to understand the somber significance of a thoughtfully invested vote. I must discuss this with my own grown children, and not assume that they "caught" it.
4. Voting Takes Preparation
I began this missive with my choice for Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction firmly in mind. But I believe the ideas discussed here go much further and deeper than a single race, in a one state. Besides, I’d do better to share with you how I came to my clear decision. So, I will use the Arizona State Superintendent’s race as an example of what to look for and where.
First, carefully review the requirements for the job in the state constitution. For Arizona, I discovered that the requirements are very broad (which explains the limited number of State Superintendent's with experience in the education industry). So I moved on to check Politics 1, a digital site that links candiates to additional information that describes the educational experiences and qualifications of the two candidates. When you do, the choice will be clear-- if your purpose is to elevate and support all schools (public, private, and charter). Also, as you read further, you will note that only one candidate is the most likely to advance teaching and learning in Arizona and through consistent support for the rigorous new standards we adopted. In fact, any public official who infers any detriment from the new standards themselves, is talking a partly line with little regard for the truth. Be very wary when you hear messages like that. But I digress. This discussion is not about the new standards, but about the importance of being an informed, educated voter.
To research background information on propositions, use your search engine to find sites that provide balanced, unbiased summaries of these issues so that you may vote clearly. Sometimes, your state's legislative site will have propositions listed by their local or state impact.
On Election Day, Tuesday November 3, 2014…VOTE! But vote ready and prepared. Your district's school board members, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, and a plethora of propositions need your valuable voice, so VOTE!.
Between now and this coming Tuesday, let’s not be headless horsemen. Rather, let’s do our homework and research the digital records of politicians courting our votes, and leave the grim, grisly, and gruesome to the ghosts and goblins of Halloween.