Don’t vote

We weren’t quite sure what the first line of this editorial should be to follow the headline. Was it going to be, “Til Election Day,” “For high-profile names,” or “In races you’re uncertain about”?

By the time this issue is off the stands, absentee voting will have already begun in the 2010 midterm elections. Early voting will begin in a few days, Oct. 16. We’ve had early voting since 1994, and while early voting has made it easier for individuals to vote, it has also made it easier for individuals to vote ignorantly, and for lesser candidates to win. Early voting has also ensured that middle and lower class candidates are less likely to run because they can’t afford to run the length of time it takes to inform voters about their positions. People went broke trying to win elections when they only had to run advertisements in the two weeks before Election Day. Now, in order to compete, they’re forced to spend their money for weeks before early voting starts. Early voting has been bad for democracy.

But it’s not just that early voting has helped make elections a game for the rich. It’s also enabled people to cast their votes before all the information is in for any candidate. Not to place too much weight on the shoulders of any one man, but how different would our state’s condition be now if certain scandals had had a chance to percolate before people began voting for Gov. Jim Gibbons four years ago? It seems that something similar happens every election: As the electorate turns their attention to the election in the two weeks before balloting, a candidate shows their true colors. And in a state where our biggest elections can be decided by a few hundred votes, an election can be decided on the first day of early voting.

But on a more basic level, even on Election Day, we’d like to suggest that in some cases, there’s a reason voters are apathetic, and there are myriad reasons for individuals not to vote. They don’t feel informed (and probably aren’t), and therefore, they are not inspired to vote in favor of any candidate. “I’m going to vote for the lesser of two evils” is a common statement in any political discussion. The problem is, neither candidate is probably evil, and the fact that the potential voter believes they are shows ignorance enough to stay away from the polls.

This is America. People don’t lose their First Amendment right to complain about the government just because they choose not to vote. And not voting because the voter no longer believes in the American political system is a perfectly legitimate form of protest. Voting for “None of the Above” does not send an empty chair to whatever jurisdiction the category wins. The human candidate with the highest number of votes takes the seat.

If you don’t know, don’t vote. If you know some candidates but not others, only vote in the races you know—it’s OK to skip. Don’t just vote for the names you recognize—all that means was they had the money to buy your awareness. And for goodness sakes, hold off voting until you have as much information as possible.