Newspaper column: If you haven’t studied the candidates and issues, DON’T VOTE!

Early voting starts Saturday. Election Day is Nov. 4. It is time to start cramming for the test — a test of the American democratic republic.

Normally this time of year you hear: Be sure and vote. Your vote counts. It is your civic duty to vote.

My admonition to you today is: Don’t cancel out an informed vote with an ill-informed one! If you haven’t studied thoroughly the issues and candidates, stay home. If you are only up to speed on a select number of items, by all means, vote on those, but leave the others blank, as recounted in this week’s newspaper column available online at The Ely Times, the Elko Daily Free Press and the Mesquite Local News.

Remember, the ballot is not like a pop quiz. You don’t get credit for wild guesses. All you do is dilute the votes of those of us who took the time to study the candidates and ballot initiatives.

Voting a straight party ticket is no salve for ignorance in Nevada, because major party candidates self select with no vetting by the parties for philosophy or ethical standards.

Early voting (RGJ photo)

The ballot franchise is not universal after all. Certain felons can’t vote, nor should they, because they may not have the best interest of the community at heart. They are crooks after all.

Until 2004, the Nevada Constitution also denied the right to vote to any “idiot or insane person.” That year the “idiot or insane” language was changed to the more politically correct “a person who has been adjudicated mentally incompetent, unless restored to legal capacity.”

I always thought we should have taken that opportunity to add: “or any self-imposed ignoramus, as determined by a poll test.”

Perhaps, you could still vote if you, as found in a survey a couple of years ago, are one of the 53 percent of Americans who does not know who the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is. But maybe not if you were among the 4 percent who guessed Harry Reid. And certainly not if you are a Nevadan and don’t know who Harry Reid is.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1820: “I know no safe depositary of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves. If we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.”

On the other hand, David T.Z. Mindich, a journalism professor, former editor for CNN and author of “Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don’t Follow the News,” once commented: “It is not hyperbole to say that if a citizenry unilaterally abandons political knowledge, it relinquishes power as well. It has been said that America is a system ‘designed by geniuses so that it could be run by idiots.’ But this is not entirely true. The Constitution does provide checks against our greatest mistakes of the moment. And elections do provide a quick check against the government’s neglect of the people. But nothing in our Constitution protects us against the long-term ravages of neglect by the people themselves.”

Perhaps that explains how in the Republican congressional primary for District 4 a guy named Mike Monroe, an unknown Las Vegas handyman who did no campaigning whatsoever, picked up 22 percent of the votes, won outright in White Pine and Esmeralda counties and was within a handful of votes to the frontrunners in Lyon and Mineral counties.

New citizens have to take a civics test. Why should the mere fact that a native-born person has inexplicably managed to survive for 18 years qualify that person to have the power to alter the political makeup of our state and country? Before being allowed to vote in Nevada, why shouldn’t a person be required to, say, name the current governor and one of our two U.S. senators?

Bryan Caplan, a professor of economics at George Mason University and author of “The Myth of the Rational Voter,” observes: “In theory, democracy is a bulwark against socially harmful policies. In practice, however, democracies frequently adopt and maintain policies that are damaging. How can this paradox be explained?

“The influence of special interests and voter ignorance are two leading explanations. I offer an alternative story of how and why democracy fails. The central idea is that voters are worse than ignorant; they are, in a word, irrational — and they vote accordingly. Despite their lack of knowledge, voters are not humble agnostics; instead, they confidently embrace a long list of misconceptions.”

As Will Rogers said, “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.”

If you know some self-imposed ignoramuses, please offer to drive them to the polls … on Nov. 5.

8 comments on “Newspaper column: If you haven’t studied the candidates and issues, DON’T VOTE!

  1. Rincon says:

    “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter”.

    Winston Churchill

  2. Steve says:

    That is why the Constitutional Republic was chosen by the founders, over a Democracy.

    Too bad we now have an actual Democracy, huh?

  3. Winston Smith says:

    The Founders’ Constitutional Republic: An experiment in liberty, responsibility and self-government.

    Democracy: A free-for-all plunder of the treasury by the biggest special-interest voting blocks.

  4. Rincon says:

    The “democracy” we have today has been approved by the very Constitutional Supreme court. Maybe the founding fathers didn’t set up such a great system after all.

  5. Steve says:

    A republic, if you can keep it.

    That was what we had.

    We couldn’t keep it.

  6. Winston Smith says:

    “If [as the Federalists say] ‘the judiciary is the last resort in relation to the other departments of the government,’ … , then indeed is our Constitution a complete felo de so. … The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they may please. It should be remembered, as an axiom of eternal truth in politics, that whatever power in any government is independent, is absolute also; in theory only, at first, while the spirit of the people is up, but in practice, as fast as that relaxes. Independence can be trusted nowhere but with the people in mass. They are inherently independent of all but moral law …” – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Judge Spencer Roane, Nov. 1819

  7. Dave Lanson says:

    If the non-informed should not vote, that would mean the R-J editorials and election endorsements are reaching the wrong part of the electorate, as are the Hate Radio Fox News. No government entity can legislate civil responsibility. A step is through the education system, but this is Nevada, and no one cares about that unless a profit can be made.

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