Forget about voter I.D., worry about voter I.Q.

As we all consider the campaign ads, the soaring oratory from candidates (maybe not so much this time around) and political punditry that will vie for our allegiance, I’d like to give you one more thing to consider about exercising your “civic duty” next Tuesday – don’t do it. Don’t vote. Before you start your letter to the editor claiming how unpatriotic I am, or accusing me being part of some voter suppression effort, allow me to clarify. I’m not talking to everyone. I’m not even talking to people who will not like me. Case in point, I have a close friend who for the last three elections I have considered my “voting buddy.” We are the best of friends who, on all things political, agree on almost nothing. We know that with few exceptions when we go to the ballot box we will undoubtedly be nullifying each other’s vote. But, I not only expect him to vote, I respect him for it, because despite our differences, I know that my friend will spend the time to educate himself on the issues based on fact and not hyperbole. Then he votes based on his morals and reality, and not on fantasy or spin. He will responsibly exercise his right to vote. I realize this may not be the most civically inspiring thing to say, but we do not have a duty to vote in this country. We have a right to vote that comes with a duty. It is a duty to exercise our right to vote prudently, judiciously, and with a full understanding of the actual issues laid before us on a ballot. But all too often we aren’t even expected to clear this bar from the very people who will ask for our votes. This has to be the case because how many candidates have really respected your ability to understand the complexity of the issues rather than cloud reality and hope you don’t recognize the difference? Or how many will claim they warrant your support based on a sound bite that was edited, interpreted for you, spun out of context and then slapped into a 30-second commercial, all while insulting your intelligence? But, it keeps happening, so to a certain extent we must be reaping what we sow. I’m not suggesting there is an alternative or a better system, because there isn’t one. But, when I see an interview of a woman telling a reporter that she would never vote for Mitt Romney because he is a communist, I have to admit, I start wishing I was wrong about that. There may be countless reasons to not cast your vote for the Governor, but none of them based in reality are because he is a communist. And yet, this woman’s vote will count the same as mine and yours on Election Day. That ought to be troubling on some level to everybody. There have been countless studies about the uninformed electorate, some even suggesting that there be a threshold test before someone is allowed to vote, but none has ever concluded that there is a real solution to this problem. It is the price of our imperfect democracy. We pay that price eagerly, and sometimes we pay for it dearly. And, while I don’t particularly relish the idea that my life could be negatively impacted because some portion of the electorate votes without even a basic knowledge of the political landscape, I cannot deny it is their right to do so. The fact is that all of us have the right to vote next week based on whatever information, misinformation, prejudice, or whim we so desire. I can’t stop anyone. But I can ask them not to do it. I can ask that if you are going to vote against or for a certain candidate solely because of the color of their skin, then please don’t vote. If you are going to vote for or against a certain candidate because you have some preconceived notion of their religious beliefs, please don’t vote. If you are going to vote for or against a particular proposition but haven’t even taken the time to read the ballot measure before you step into the voting booth, please don’t vote. Get informed and make a decision accordingly. Having a right, and exercising that right responsibly are very different things. We should all do the latter. Local columnist Jeff Nunes is an attorney at Rusconi, Foster & Thomas, APC in Morgan Hill. He is a graduate of Live Oak High School and lives in Morgan Hill with his wife and two children. Reach him at [email protected]

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