Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rock the Vote (or don't)

So word on the street is there’s some sort of election coming up. Maybe you’re registered to vote, maybe you’re not. The responsible thing would probably be to encourage you to register if you aren’t. But if you’re not registered, isn’t it more important to inform yourself on the candidates and the issues before you worry about registering?

Walking through the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the New Voters Project is easy to find. On the first floor of the Union, right by the other tables in the Union that tell people to join a frat or the Student Pirate Club (or whoever those people with the skull and crossbones flag are.)

Their mission is to get students to vote. A nonpartisan group, they don’t encourage anyone to vote for any individual candidates. All they want is students in the voting booths on Election Day.

They can tell you all sorts of useful information, such as where to find your polling place and the rules on registering to vote in Wisconsin. One thing you won’t get from the New Voters Project is any information on the candidates.

They instruct their volunteers to sign as many people as possible to either register or “pledge” to vote, regardless if that person even knows what address to use for registering. Once that person signs up, they walk away, no more informed than when they were first approached by a New Voters Project volunteer.

But maybe they’re right. Maybe we need to take baby steps. Maybe just showing up deserves a pat on the back. At least you tried. Most of the country can’t even be bothered to do that. After all, voting is the foundation on which our democracy is built. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, just as long as you’re at the polls on November 7.

In fact, not only does it not matter who you vote for, it doesn’t matter why you’re voting for them.

Maybe you want to vote for Jim Doyle because you agree with his stance on funding for stem cell research. Maybe you want to vote for Doyle because he has “soft eyes.” Maybe you want to vote for him because you think it would be fun to draw pictures on his bald head with lipstick.

Maybe you actually agree with Mark Green’s stance on restrictions on stem cell research, but vote for Doyle anyway because you can’t read. As long as you’re voting, that’s all that matters.

Not only does it not matter who you vote for or why you vote for them, it also doesn’t matter if you know who is on the ballot. Sure most people who have looked at a newspaper or watched the local news once in the last two months knows who the gubernatorial candidates are.

But who are your candidates for Secretary of State? What about the candidates for State Senator in your district? Do you know who’s running for Vice Mayor?

That last one was a trick question. Vice Mayor is actually an appointed position, not an elected one. Everyone knows that.

But it doesn’t matter if you did. As long as you’re voting, that’s all that matters.

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