Don’t vote willy-nilly

It’s crucially important to vote with your head.

It is traditional for a newspaper, in the issue immediately proceeding an election, to editorialize along these lines: It doesn’t matter who you vote for, just get out and vote.

Heck, it is practically a newsroom requirement.

Yeah. Meh. We aren’t doing that.

Because it’s stupid.

In the long histories of elections and newspapers, it is unlikely that anyone, ever, decided to exercise the franchise on the strength of an admonishing opinion no matter how eloquently composed.

Moreover, it’s just not true.

Of course, it matters who you vote for. It matters very much. Actually, it’s all that matters.

That’s not to suggest you can name a right candidate, or a wrong candidate, for any office.

Within our electoral system, the candidate who gets the most votes is, by definition, the right candidate. So it’s crucially important to vote with your head.

There are people who “X” the first name or names on a ballot. There are people who “X” candidates solely because there is name recognition — because they’ve heard of that person before, or because they have the most signs on peoples’ lawns. There are people who base their vote on the opinions of others, overheard at the coffee shop or on social media.

All those people should stay home on Saturday and watch cartoons.

Voting is the closest practice to a sacred ritual offered by any democracy. You shouldn’t vote just because you can, without giving some serious thought to what you are doing. A willfully ill-informed voter is to effective government what a drunk driver is to a four-lane highway.

Read newspapers or follow credible digital news media.

Find out at least something about the relevant issues and examine your own feelings on them. Do some homework and learn a bit about how your government works and what can and cannot be expected of it.

Vote for candidates if you agree with their positions on big issues — whatever those happen to be in your community.

When choosing between candidates you might also consider character, as well as experience or knowledge, leadership style, approachability. Pick something but make it tangible and real.

A vote is a tremendous privilege, but it is also a responsibility.

Treat it like one.

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