To be honest, the idea of voting has always somewhat frightened me. It was mostly because during election time, suddenly people all around me began screaming over each other, pointing fingers at those with opposing views, accusing non-voters of not being “true Americans”. I’m not one for conflict. I have opinions and I have political views, but I always felt that it was silly to let those views shut doors to the people around me, or to new ideals. In other words, I’m openminded—I suppose I fall into the independent category, neither ‘democrat’ or ‘republican’.
Still, with that said, I always thought those labels were silly. It seems obvious to me that one should look past the party name and at the people themselves, but I grew up around friends whose parents were quite extreme on one end or the other, and who would snort and throw up their noses at the mention of the party they didn’t identify with.
Is that really a way to show you are interested in the wellbeing of the country?
When I turned eighteen, the day before election day (and actually, it’s my birthday today, for the record!), it was like all of a sudden, people who used to pretend I didn’t exist suddenly wanted every ounce of my attention.
“You can vote now!”, “It’s extremely vital that you vote.”, “Who are you voting for?”, “If you don’t vote you’re taking your right to vote for granted!”
I suddenly felt cornered. I didn’t want to vote. I wasn’t educated enough yet in the world of politics. I was too focused on my studies, on my personal life, to have even considered taking the time to go into extensive research on the candidates of the year. But for some reason, as soon as I was labeled ‘adult’, I was irresponsible for deciding I wasn’t yet ready.
Now, when election day comes around, all I want to do is step back and let the dogs fight. Half of me wonders if many people who choose to vote do it not because they really understand what they want in voting, but so they can avoid the same guilt trip that I’m given every year for deciding I’m not ready. As someone who understands the weight of a vote and how it can effect the outcome of the state or of the country, I realize that not being quite there yet in my knowledge of the candidates who are running for office, it would be wrong of me to make an ‘educated guess’. And I think it’s wrong for others to assume that not voting means that a person “doesn’t care”, because in my case and probably many others, it’s just the opposite—I care enough about the people in this country to understand that I should know what the people I’m voting for think is important.
Rob Port, a man who wrote an article about this issue, said:
“I just think that before you vote, you should have been paying attention.
I understand that we’re all busy. It’s hard to keep up with all the statewide candidates on the ballot, not to mention the eight statewide ballot measures. Plus the local candidates and issues. It’s a lot to keep up with.
And if you haven’t been keeping up with every race, that’s fine. Vote on the ones you feel educated on, and leave the others blank. And if you’re not up to speed on any of the issues, if you’re just voting by party affiliation or name recognition or you’re just voting because you feel like you’re supposed to but you really have no idea who any of these people are, do us a favor and stay home.”
…And I guess to make the long story short, I still do not feel ready enough to vote this year, and I feel I shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for it.
Posted by Mary Rose Fiondella