Before anything else, I need to say this: You should always vote. Always. The only way we can have true change is if everyone voices a desire for change. The only way we can progress as a nation is if people come together and vote. Voting is the most powerful tool we have for equality, justice and all the other virtues we strive to promote as a nation. Tuesday, we saw just how much each vote matters, and everyone who voted should be commended.
That being said, I did not vote yesterday. I know I’m not fulfilling my duty as an American. I’m a bad citizen and a hypocrite. But it’s not only that I didn’t vote yesterday. It’s that I shouldn’t have voted yesterday. I would go as far as to say that I couldn’t have voted yesterday, even if I had wanted to. The reason being that I frankly, and shamefully, wasn’t well-educated enough to do so by the time the booths opened.
What does it mean to vote? Does it merely mean to cast a ballot? Does it merely mean to enter a voting booth and check someone’s name off? I don’t think so. Not if we want to promote the notion of a democracy.
I’d go as far as to say that voting requires a few things. You need to know the facts, you need to know the positions of the candidates and the various problems confronting the public. Second, you need to reason which politician has the policy platform and the credentials to best address the issues.
Voting isn’t just an action, it’s a process — a process of deliberation, reasoning and learning. If you aren’t educated on whom you’re voting for or against, you’re not truly voting for that person at all. Your vote should be your vote. Not a vote cast because you saw that the News supported one candidate, not because your friend in the Yale College Democrats or Republicans told you to vote for someone, not because one person campaigned harder. Your vote should be a decision that you, as a rational person, come to base on the readily available and reported facts.
It’s a problem when people like me, who are uneducated about the relevant issues at hand, decide to go out and “vote.” I could have gone to the polling place yesterday and cast a vote. But I chose not to, and I think that people in my situation should do the same.
This column is in no way condoning political ignorance. We all have a duty to educate ourselves on the politicians whose names and policies will be on the ballot. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t uphold this sacred duty. My example is not one to follow, and ideally, no one else would have been in my position and this entire column would fall on deaf ears.
But, unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I talked to friends who voted despite admitting that they had no idea what specific policies each candidate proposed. Some said they voted just because someone had told them to do so, while others voted blindly down party lines.
It’s apparent that there are people out there who weren’t educated on the issues but decided to vote anyway. And sadly there always will be these people. My column is addressing these people right now, and only these people.
If you aren’t going to educate yourself before voting, don’t vote.
The way I see it, an uneducated vote is worse than no vote at all, especially in an election as close as the gubernatorial election in Connecticut — one of the most important and scrutinized races in the nation. In such tight races, our uninformed opinions can have a disproportionate effect. When the stakes are this high, when each vote counts as much as it does, an uneducated vote shouldn’t be the one to swing the state’s political future.
If you’re educated, if you have an opinion on the issue, then go vote. Doing so is necessary for a democracy to flourish. However, if you’re already set on not educating yourself, minimize the damage you’ve already done to the system. It’s a lesser of two evils to be sure, and ideally, you shouldn’t do either — but if you must do one, then don’t submit an uneducated vote.
There are plenty of resources at hand to learn about the issues. Go and learn from those. That’s your, and my, first duty as a citizen. Voting means being an active citizen. It means doing your part staying informed on the things that affect you as a citizen of this country. So yes, vote. But before that, educate yourself and stay educated. I know that in the future, I’ll certainly try to do better.
Leo Kim is a sophomore in Trumbull College. His columns run on alternate Thursdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.