Don’t vote

It’s that time again: election season. Before the election two years ago, this newspaper ran a series of reasons to vote—one a week for the year leading up to the election. It was cute, maybe effective, maybe not. The bottom line was it made everybody feel good, and a couple high school teachers read the list in class and asked the students for their own reasons to vote.

This year, for this one week, we’re going to discuss the reasons not to vote. There are a few legitimate reasons not to vote: You’re ignorant of the candidates and the issues. You consider not voting a legitimate form of protest because money has taken precedence over issues in getting people elected. You can’t see any relationship between your vote and who wins. You don’t trust the results of elections—as in Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004.

If you examine who wins elections, it boils down to one thing: money. Money is also the reason people who care about their country, but for one reason or another haven’t informed themselves about the candidates and issues, should stay home on Election Day. It’s like this: Candidates with money and incumbent candidates tend to have the money to buy billboards and television commercial time. Candidates with money are—cynically—the candidates most beholden to monied interests.

Now, if you’ve followed us this far down the path, here’s the leap: In the absence of knowledge to contradict political advertising, since people tend to vote for the person with the highest name recognition (monied candidates and incumbents), it is simply natural for people thus conditioned to vote for the candidate least likely to serve their interests. It’s not “Oh, I get some wrong one way, and some wrong the other way, it works out.” No, the vast weight falls toward uninformed people voting toward the candidate least likely to serve their interests.

So don’t feel bad about it. Those people who claim, “If you didn’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain” are wrong. You do not sacrifice your First Amendment right to express yourself simply because you did not choose to exercise your Constitutional right to vote. For every Constitutional right, there is an implied right not to exercise the right. In other words, just because there is a right to free speech does not mean that you have to speak. If you have to speak, then it is a responsibility, not a right.

There are a lot of reasons to be pissed off by how our elections are done in this country. It seems the individual voter gets little say in how this government uses his or her money. For example, it wouldn’t be hard to find those who are angry that their tax money is being used to fight an abhorrent war on Iraq.

On the other hand, there are those who realize that not voting is essentially a self-defeating protest, and so they’ll be inspired to read the candidates’ statements (like those on the Washoe County Registrar of Voters’ site at www.co.washoe.nv.us/voters/candidate_info.html) or even to look at media sources, like the Reno Gazette-Journal’s, www.rgj.com, or our own, www.newsreview.com. If you get informed, you might want to register to vote. Here are some deadlines to register to vote in the next election.

If you register BY MAIL, the application must be mailed to the Registrar’s Office and postmarked no later than Oct. 7.

If you register IN PERSON at the DMV, your application must be delivered no later than Oct. 7.

If you register IN PERSON at the Registrar of Voters Office, your application must be delivered by the close of business, 5 p.m., on Oct. 17.