OK, it's election season, and past time to weigh in. Each year at this time we're treated to "get out the vote" messages ad infinitum, (as if simply getting large numbers to the polls is a good thing, which it's not). The problem is, most voters go to the polls not knowing a thing about the issues they're deciding. They're either voting blindly or they're casting a vote decided by somebody else who told them how to vote. (This is called cheating, and it's the reason children aren't allowed to vote.) Other people decide to lodge "protest" votes. Rather than voting on the candidate that best matches their interests, they vote for somebody -- anybody -- else to "send a message".
If you're in either of those categories, stay home. Democracy doesn't need you. The country doesn't need you. You shouldn't vote, because you don't know how. Fortunately, your lack of knowledge is exceedingly easy to fix.
So here's how to vote.
First, people often vote with a particular party without knowing what it even stands for, because their parents voted that way, or their friends, or their union says to. Before you say "I'm a Republican" or Democrat, or Libertarian, find out what that means. You may find yourself switching affiliations. If you're like most people you won't agree with everything any party says. Not even the candidates do. But you'll be close enough.
If you're a protest voter, do your protesting in the primaries. The general election is no time to shoot yourself in the foot. So if you feel like throwing the bum out, replace him with a member of your party... if you agree with your party's positions. When the primaries are over, put aside your "message" and vote in your best interests. Now -- days from the general election -- is not the time for your petty protests. If you voted in the primary, your message was received; if you didn't, then sending it now sends the wrong message to the wrong people at the wrong time. Above all, do not vote emotionally, ever.
If you don't know what the candidates stand for, or what the issues mean, or if you honestly do not care, then DON'T VOTE. I mean it. The world doesn't need you screwing up things blindly when the issues could be better decided by people who are informed, involved, and who care. There is no law that says you have to vote on every position on the ballot. Just vote for what you care about and leave the rest alone. You have strong feelings about your Congressman, but you don't know anything about the candidates for county Sheriff? Then vote for your Congressman and don't choose anyone in the Sheriff's race.
If you want to vote, then get informed. Go read your local newspaper, listen to talk radio, and go to http://www.dontvote.com. Read each campaign's literature. But don't use just one source of information. If you do that, then you're just voting for somebody else. Get the balanced info so you can make a real decision, because that's what voting is.
Five days from now, when it's time to hit the polls, if you're apathetic, uninformed, confused, or plain lazy, then do the right thing. Please stay home. Don't vote.