Our Opinion: Informed voters make a democracy

In preparation for the upcoming Presidential election, we all have a vested interest in making sure that not only do we vote, but we do our research on the candidates on the stump hoping to hold the highest office in the land.

As we have already seen over the last few months, our TV and social media feeds are chock-full of ads about Trump, Clinton, Cruz, Sanders, etc. Each one of them likely has something negative to say about other candidates. Here’s a thought: what if they put as much effort into doing things to move our country forward as they do trying to tear each other down to hope to get more votes? I’ll get back to that in a minute.

Are you registered to vote? If not, we urge you to visit www.usvotefoundation.org to find out the deadlines on registration. Yes, there is a deadline in advance of any election. Also, if you are here from another state, you can still vote in your home state. For example: if you’re a Texas resident living here for sake of college, you can still vote (absentee) in Texas. If voting via absentee ballot applies to you, the above website can help you register for that as well.

If you aren’t sure what an absentee ballot is, let me explain. Absentee means you are eligible, but are unable to visit your local polling location. For example: service members deployed are still eligible to vote, but cannot get to their local area. Therefore, the local official (typically the county clerk) will mail a paper ballot to you, and you mark it and return in a provided envelope.

Many people say “My vote doesn’t do any good, so why vote?” Well, there are a number of reasons. First of all, it is your right and responsibility to vote. Let us not forget that elected officials are there to serve us, “We the People” first and foremost. Secondly, if you don’t like how things are going (i.e., laws passed, elected officials) you have a duty to vote in an election to change things. Even if things don’t get changed, you made your voice known by expressing your concern by voting. 

If you don’t vote, and things happen you don’t like, well, you may likely be considered a part of the problem. 

Oh, and the part about tearing people apart to get votes? Here’s where we encourage you to do research. If they’re already a politician, look at their voting records – yes, those are public records. If you want to know how a candidate feels about renewable energy, for instance, look up the voting records. Also, look at speeches they’ve given, and also at town hall or public forum settings. Check their answers for consistency. 

Whoever you vote for in the 2016 Presidential election, we believe you should do it being as informed as you can. So many times it is winding up picking the lesser of two evils. But, if we as a society become informed stakeholders (see what I did there Slavings?!) and make sound decisions, perhaps we can get back on the right path.