The Library: Need to Know

One of the great privileges of being a Unitarian Universalist is that we can answer a question with “I don’t know…”, and that is a valid answer.  Does God exist? I don’t know.  Are you a Christian? I don’t know.  Are you going to church tomorrow? I don’t know…  This works great in UU settings, but doesn’t go over well everywhere else.

For instance, I didn’t realize how much I don’t know about the election tomorrow.  Yes, of course I know it’s really important: which party controls the US Senate is hanging in the balance in a handful of states.  I know who I will vote for because, after all, I am an engaged and intelligent voter… or at least that’s what I thought.

A few days ago, I pulled up the sample ballot for my county.  I was stunned!  I have the responsibility of voting for 16 offices, 2 proposed constitutional amendments, and one proposed statewide referendum.  Nineteen issues.  Now of course this happens every election cycle, and every election I walk out of the booth thinking: two years from now I’ll be more prepared.  But I’m never more prepared.  I do have my voting booth strategies.  The easiest one is the “straight ticket” option.  This is when you vote “straight Democrat” or “straight Republican” and walk out of the booth in about 5 seconds, thinking you did a good job, until a little voice in the back of your mind starts nagging you.  Another strategy is to only vote for the “top tier” candidates, thinking (incorrectly) that the other offices don’t matter much.  This is not recommended, because you’re putting great faith – too much faith – in all those equally ignorant voters who vote the entire ballot.  Really, I am more intelligent than this!

So this year I’ve done my homework; or I should say votesmart.org has done much of my homework for me.  All I need to do is put in a candidate’s name, and up pops their bio; voting history; position on controversial issues (abortion, marriage equality, gun violence, the regulation of greenhouse gases…); speeches; and funding.  At first blush this website is very useful, until you realize that many candidates don’t post their position on such controversial issues, either because they are cowards, or, even worse, they don’t have an opinion.  But still, by reading their bios, and about their funding sources and endorsements, you start to get a clear picture.

What all this means is that I know more now than I knew a few days ago.  But most importantly, it’s that stark in-your-face realization that we have a responsibility to vote: not only is our democracy dependent on it, but there are literally lives in the balance.  So I can’t wait to vote tomorrow, and I encourage all of you to vote, and drag your friends and family and dog to vote, and really stick-it-to-‘em in the ballot booth.

JoAnn Weiss

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