For weeks now we’ve all been inundated with messages telling us it’s our civic duty to get out and vote.
To a point, I agree, though I’d add a caveat.
It’s your duty to understand the candidates and issues on the ballot first. Having accomplished that, it is then your duty to vote.
If you haven’t taken that first step, though, it is not your duty to vote. In fact, it’s your duty to do the opposite and refrain from canceling out other, well considered votes with your random ballot.
I’ve made this point during past election cycles, and as a result been accused of attempting to suppress voters, but note that my argument here doesn’t rest on the content of your vote. I don’t care if you’re a gun-toting, Trump-loving Republican or a Bernie Sanders supporter driving around in a Prius, if you haven’t been paying attention to the issues and candidates on the ballot you shouldn’t be voting.
Many of us having been paying attention, and we’d rather not have our voice diluted by someone who is voting because they like a candidate’s name. Or party affiliation. Or something similarly trivial.
It happens more often than we like to think.
I don’t like voting early, or by way of an absentee ballot. I like voting in person, on election day. Mostly because I like to stand in line and hear what the other voters are talking about.
Something I hear a lot, while I’m filling out my ballot, is an exclamation of surprise when a fellow voter comes to a race or ballot issue they haven’t considered. “What’s this?” I’ll hear them ask themselves.
“How are you voting?” I’ll hear them ask the friend or significant other they came with.
This is not good, and it brings me to another point about voting (at least here in North Dakota) which you may not realize.
It’s ok to leave some parts of your ballot blank. It’s called “undervoting” and it won’t cause your ballot to be spoiled or thrown out.
Let’s say you’ve spent a lot of time considering the candidates for the Senate and Congress and you know who you want to vote for. That’s great! But then you get to, say, the ballot measures and you realize you don’t really know what they are.
You don’t have to vote on those, or any other part of the ballot you don’t understand. Nor should you, for the reasons I explained above.
Many people feel ashamed about not being in-the-know for every candidate and issue on the ballot, but you shouldn’t. We put a lot of candidates and issues on our ballots (I’ve argued in the past, for instance, that some of our statewide offices like the Tax and Insurance Commissioners shouldn’t be elected), and we’re a busy people. It’s one thing to school yourself on something like a hotly contested Senate race. It’s harder to follow, say, a race for Sheriff or District Judge.
Sometimes there just isn’t enough time.
If you haven’t been following politics at all this year, just stay home. Don’t vote. Do better next cycle.
If you do have some competitions you’ve been following then great! Go vote, but leave the parts of your ballot your clueless about blank.
It really is ok.