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EDITORIAL: Political Decision Making: Your Right to Vote

Oct 30

In yet another year of in-fighting in Washington, political dysfunction and tales of gloom and doom, it is important to remember to vote in local elections, especially this off-year.  In reality, all political change occurs at the local level and oftentimes it is the neighbors we elect who have the most impact on our lives in the form of taxes, recreation areas, schools, public safety, and thriving downtowns.  Here are a few tips for making your right to vote count:

  1. Read. Read about the candidates in local newspapers like this one or go to the web sites like the League of Women Voters. Get to know the candidate positions and backgrounds if they are published. Patient, steady leadership accompanied by planning, ethical behavior and intelligence is what you want. Governing is a marathon not a race.
  2. Meet them. There is no substitute for meeting a person to find out who they are. Subtle clues from their demeanor and tone broadcast what they are about. Ask them questions about what is important to them.  If they have been in office, ask them:  What have you accomplished? The latter is the most important indicator of whether they will work for you or for themselves.
  3. Go to party web sites.  You will find a wealth of information about candidates and where to vote. Who did the party endorse? Why? Endorsement represents the result of a vetting process. Some people have taken the time to find good and qualified candidates. There are reasons why some people are endorsed and others are not. The party web site says a lot too.  Is it personal?  Is it current? Is it organized?  These are all indications of grass-roots organizing in action and indicative of people who care about the future of your town.
  4. Talk to neighbors.  Who are your friends voting for? Why? Lawn signs are an indication of what your neighbor believes in. If you disagree, that is OK too. It is your vote.
  5.  Invoke the Categorical Imperative.  The great philosopher Immanuel Kant formualted a variation of the Golden Rule to determine the efficacy of one course of action verses another. Paraphrasing his words, “Would the world be a better place if I were to do X?” Adapt this to be, “Would my town be a better place if I were to vote for this person?”

The right to vote is a privilege and not all citizens around the world have that right.  On Tuesday November 5th, please take ten minutes out of your day to make this important political decision.

Eric W. Stein, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Management Science and Information Systems, Penn State
Councilman, Media Borough
Member, Media Borough Democratic Committee

Further Reading