On Facebook this morning my news feed was lit up with various posts reminding everyone that it's election day and to go vote or that one has already voted. And then there is the cliche and semi-dire warning that "if you don't vote, you can't complain." I was brought up, both in family and in education, to believe in the American voting system, that it was the best in all the land. Further I was trained up to believe that it was my duty to vote, my obligation. It's not so much that I've come to disagree with that. In principle I still do believe in "the People" electing leaders. And I do believe, especially given the history of just how hard the right to vote was fought, that I do have a responsibility...obligation to vote.
I also believe we have a responsibility not just to randomly show up and pick one. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves about the ballot. Who's on it? What do they stand for? What does this amendment or ballot initiative mean for my family, my community? I have a civic obligation, not just to vote, but to make an educated vote. I fear this concept is largely lost on the Electorate. And this concept, for me, presents a dilemma?
How do I vote for a candidate when there is no candidate that is satisfactory?
What's an educated voter to do? For years I've been told that "if you don't vote you can't complain." Or, "sometimes you just have to pick the lesser of two evils." Or, "this year you'll just have to hold your nose and vote." Well you know what, in time I have realized that I reject that logic entirely! Our vote is too precious and was too hard fought for me to just give it away to some candidate that doesn't represent or believe in the things that are important to me. Why should I support someone who I know to be incompetent at best or in some years down right evil at worst? This is MY vote. I have come to the realization that I am going to protect it, not just give it away because I only have two bad choices from which to choose.
We've been trained, as a society, in this two party system. These are our two choices and you just pick the lesser of two evils and go home and be happy that you live in country where you have a "choice." Um, NO. That's ridiculous. Because you know what, if you vote for that lesser evil then you share a responsibility in the terrible "leadership" that ensues. You share a responsibility in whatever damage is inflicted on your community, state, country as a result of your "less evil" vote. And all the while, when that happens we console ourselves with this notion that, yeah it's crappy now, but it would have been worse if we had voted for the other guy. Poor governance is NOT a consolation prize for poorer governance. What is wrong with us!! How long has it taken for us to lower our standards and devalue our precious vote to this point? And what will it take for us to stand up and fight for our vote? To demand better choices?
In my own state we have just a handful of elections on the ballot. One of which is governor. My choices are a man, running as a conservative, who does not represent IN ANY WAY conservatism. He represents himself, his own interest, his cronies' interest. He is most certainly NOT a Godly man. Running against him is primarily a man who represents a platform I find abhorrent, and a handful of other candidates who have not bothered to mount enough of a campaign for me to make an informed decision. Bottom line, I could not stand before God and justify my vote for any of these candidates. So I truly believe that I can not vote in this particular category. It would just be wrong.
In another, more local election we have state representatives on the ballot. My choices are a man, whom I have had personal dealings with and have seen first hand that his words don't match his actions. This obviously leaves me with no confidence. Running against him is a woman who, again, represents a platform I find abhorrent and has not been real impressive when I've heard her speak. So in this category I feel that I can not vote for either candidate.
I am still going to the polls today. There are a few offices where I do feel confident to cast a vote and there are some amendments I feel very strongly about. So while I will be voting on some things today I will be leaving some of my ballot blank. Does this mean I have "no right to complain" when my state is governed poorly? I don't believe that. I'm casting a vote of silence. I am refusing to further accept the lesser of evils as my choices.
I realize that this will not change the outcome of the election. One of the "evils" will be elected governor. But at least I will know I didn't put them there. And I do believe that if the Electorate would stop buying into the notion that we are just stuck with the two choices we are served up or that our vote can only "count" if we vote within the two-party system, things would change. The power really does still lie with the People. The People just have to find it within themselves to remember that.