During each election cycle there is always a push to get potential voters involved in the process, to register those who are qualified to do so and to convince those registered to take the time to vote.
Much is made of the fact that all of those who participate in the election process have a chance to make a difference, and there is no shortage of encouragement directed toward “getting the vote out.”
But absentee voters aren’t really the biggest problem come election day. That distinction would go to voters who are uninformed.
A potential voter who can’t find time to vote is simply a missed ballot. An uninformed voter who casts a ballot without knowing anything about the candidates and issues involved can do true damage.
Thankfully, voters have ample opportunity to become informed. In fact, given the information available about candidates through the news media, online and through public appearances, it may be easier than ever to form educated opinions before making the trip to the polling booth.
One of the best ways to find out about candidates is through local political forums. The county’s Republican Party last week held a number of forums for candidates in various races, with more scheduled for the week to come. Other groups as well have forums planned between now and election day.
By attending a political forum you get a chance to see candidates in person, to see how they handle working a crowd, to see how well they “think on their feet” when asked questions by a moderator or an audience member. Such forums aren’t perfect, but they do often provide an opportunity to see candidates in action that otherwise might not be available.
While forums sometimes differ in format and topic, and can become something of a grind for those candidates who try to attend them all, they serve a valuable service in helping voters to become familiar with those seeking elected office. Those who take the time to organize and promote such forums are to be commended for doing so.
A word of caution for those who go, however. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed by perceptions of which candidates the crowd may seem to favor. Remember that many of those in the audience may already be campaign supporters who come to show their support for a single candidate rather than to learn more about others.
Beyond the forums, there are many other opportunities to become informed. Most candidates have Web sites on which they offer their political ideas and platforms. There also are political blogs and chat sites on which candidates and issues may be discussed, though these often are so uncivil as to be of little educational value.
And there is this newspaper, which will be offering plenty of coverage of local politics between now and election day, with routine stories.
The July 31 primary also will include the much discussed TSPLOST vote, and there is an incredible amount of information available on that proposed tax for transportation for those who take the time to look.
There is perhaps no greater threat on election day than uninformed voters who simply go to the polls and cast their votes for or against candidates and ideas without knowing why. Take the time to get informed and make your vote an intelligent one.