(Part two of a three-part opinion piece on why and how to vote in the upcoming municipal election in Middletown. Read yesterday's . Full disclosure: I’m a candidate for the Board of Education)
There’s been much discussion, and written, about the number of new voters by .
I think its great that Wes Dems and those registering think it’s important to vote. I do too. It’s the most basic political action that most citizens take.
The ensuing outcry over disenfranchisement is hyperbolic, but to be expected from students preparing to vote for the first time and now being informed they might not be able to. I hope each of the students casts a ballot, based on a working knowledge of the candidates and issues.
Young people anxious to have a part in democracy is exciting, and should be valued.
Because, as a society, we’re not very excited about voting, and thereby, not very good at it.
We have relatively low rates of registration, and lower voter participation. When 30 percent is considered a good turnout, we’re doing something wrong.
Maybe as a voting population we’re jaded by consistently getting a “pretty good” government. Even with “pretty good government” we usually find plenty to bitch about. Still, despite very low ratings for most elected officials, we continue to vote the same people, and same kind of people into office. Unless things are going terribly wrong, we don’t seem motivated to mobilize and vote the offending politicians out. Truth is, some politicians count on your disinterest.
Maybe we’re too cynical. Often enough this political season I’ve encountered people who have told me their vote doesn’t make a difference, as if that’s reason enough not to vote. The fact is that the last mayoral election was decided by a couple of hundred votes. Particularly in municipal elections every vote counts.
And maybe, just maybe we’re too lazy, or too distracted by everything else to get involved in politics at this basic level.
Many registered voters will head to the polls without the foggiest notion of who the people, or the issues, on the ballot are. I’ve been to two mayoral debates, and a candidate forum, and I’ve seen at most, two or three hundred people in attendance. That’s out of 22,000 voters.
Many voters will take the easy route of letting someone else do the thinking for them. They will vote the party line, trusting that the values of the party are somehow reflected in the candidates. Or they’ll vote based on endorsements by newspapers, organizations or other well-know figures.
As a close observer of politics in this town for the last half-dozen years, I can assure you that the (R) and the (D) beside a candidate’s name may not necessarily reflect a general party ideology as it’s understood in a larger context (these days, I’m not sure anyone can successfully define what those things are for the R’s or the D’s at any level).
I’m with Ralph Nader. I think this country is strangled by the two-party system and that another viable party, or two, would bring blessed relief.
Given what we have, I’d encourage every voter to take some time to understand that crossing party lines to vote may be the most effective method to electing a “really good” government.
On the ballot you’ll hold Tuesday, there are Republicans more liberal than any Democrat on the ballot, and Democrats who are more fiscally conservative than many of the Republicans. There are also some independents and third party candidates who have much to offer.
There’s an old maxim that writing instructors have imparted to young writers: “Write what you know.”
That’s my advice to voters. Vote what you know.
The ballot gives voters the opportunity to select up to a certain number of candidates for various councils and boards (e.g., 8 for Common Council, 5 for Board of Ed, 4 for Planning and Zoning). That doesn’t mean you are required to cast that many votes. Vote for the people you know. Vote for the people you trust. Don’t vote simply because you’re allowed to fill in a certain number of bubbles.
If you’re certain who you want to vote in as mayor, make that vote. If you don’t recognize another name on the ballot, stop there.
There’s still time to spend a few hours to examine the ballot (http://www.ct.gov/sots/cwp/view.asp?a=3179&q=488414) and learn some more about the candidates. Vote. But, don’t squander your privilege and opportunity to participate, and vote smart.