Commentary: Ignorance is not bliss in the voting booth
June 19, 2008
"The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all."
-- John F. Kennedy
In case you missed it - and judging by the turnout, or lack thereof, a great majority of South Carolina voters did - the non-presidential primary elections took place last week here in the Palmetto State. Only one in every five registered voters across the state cast a ballot.
One of my fundamental beliefs is that everyone has not only a right, but a moral obligation to vote. However, before I went to the polls, I heard something that shook that conviction.
Someone I know actually said, "It's just the primary. I don't know who is running so I just go eany, meany, miney, moe."
Normally I would applaud anyone voting in a primary where voter turnout is historically low. But to select who will be the decision makers for the next four years without any knowledge of their plans, beliefs and policies amounts to gross negligence.
Mayors, city councilmen, state representatives and other local office holders have a larger impact on a voter's daily life than the president and Congress. That makes it more paramount to do research on the local candidates than on the national office seekers.
It is at the local level where more taxes (income, property, sales) are levied. These same local politicians decided how that tax money will be spent.
They are also the ones responsible for passing laws that affect daily life.
Voters who complain that there is too much crime in their city, yet do not research which office seekers have a plan to curtail crime, have to accept part of the blame for the crime they are complaining about in the first place.
Not only do local politicians have more of an influence on a voter's day-to-day life, voters have more leverage on elections at the local level.
The majority of national elections are decided by hundreds of thousands, even millions of votes. At the local level, an election can be determined by a handful of ballots. Thus, making an informed choice in the voting booth is critical at the local level.
There are nearly five months until the general elections. That is plenty of time to find out who will be on the local ballot and where they stand on the issues that are important to you. Uninformed voters give up their rights by not staying informed.