Point Park Globe

Voters must be informed on election candidates

Written By John Karavis, Staff Writer

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A friend of mine whom I’ve never known to have an interest in politics recently revealed to me she voted for Jill Stein in the 2016 presidential election.

“Oh, what drew you to her?” I asked, surprised at her choice. I didn’t know many Stein supporters, and the ones I did were far more politically forthcoming than my friend.

Stein, a Massachusetts physician who’d never held political office, ran on the Green Party ticket and proposed several environment-first policies. While she gained some national traction and received over one million votes in the general election, she was hardly a threat to win. 

“I don’t really know why I voted for her,” she said. “I didn’t like Trump or Hillary, but I still wanted to vote.” 

Her take, while innocent and perfectly valid, illustrates a major reason for widespread voter disenchantment and is a prime reason why I have not, nor do I ever intend to, vote in an election. This may seem like a counterintuitive way to approach such an important topic, but let me explain. 

Stein’s 1.1% of the popular vote seems meager when initially considered, but it’s the way those votes could have gone that really makes a difference. 

While the Green Party is primarily known for its earth-friendly initiatives, the group is far left on the political spectrum regarding most issues and supports many Democratic social and economic causes. 

It’s fair to assume if Stein wasn’t on the 2016 ballot, most, if not all her votes would have gone blue, and we could very well have a different current president. 

Now, this isn’t an attempt to shame third-party voters, as alternative candidates have impacted elections throughout American history. Perhaps none more famously than in 2000, where Ralph Nader’s strong turnout in Florida all but assuredly kept Al Gore from the White House. 

Personally, I would be in favor of more parties of any political persuasion having the time and widespread media coverage afforded to Democrats and Republicans. So what’s keeping this from happening?

The unfortunate truth is, most candidates are afraid running on a non-traditional platform will eliminate their credibility and cause voters to question their legitimacy. 

Bernie Sanders is an Independent Senator from Vermont, yet he had to run on the Democratic ticket to avoid splitting the party and handing the election to the Republicans. 

And Donald Trump hardly encompassed established GOP ideals when he announced his candidacy. 

American voters have repeatedly shown they value familiarity over the person behind the name. 

Bush. Clinton. Trump. Biden. All were focal points at different points of the 2016 campaign. 

The nationwide urging of figures like Oprah Winfrey or Michelle Obama to take on Trump in 2020 while more qualified candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker are largely ignored by the mass media is telling and immensely disappointing. The current American political system isn’t built around proclaiming hope or ideology or policy or unity for the public. 

It’s built to sell voters a face. A face they can look at and say: “Oh, I know him/her.” Recognition is key. 

In 2018, slogans, yard signs, t-shirts and cheap, red hats win elections, not ethics or new ideas.

And I don’t want to be a part of it. 

It’s fair to question my patriotism after making a statement like that, but I think the truest way to appreciate the freedoms our country provides is to embrace the ability to decide whether to take part in something. 

To me, my friend choosing a candidate she couldn’t identify in a police lineup over the two front-runners forced down the voting public’s gullet is disgusting and a true indictment of the fundamental flaws of a two-party process. 

This isn’t a plea to completely abandon the system, but the vast number of uninformed voters diminishes the importance of the decisions we’re tasked with making every other November. 

If we only focus on two candidates, we risk millions of people wasting their votes on people they don’t know or care about. 

I’ve often heard voting referred to as a civic duty, but as citizens, don’t we owe it to ourselves and each other to make informed choices instead of simplemindedly voting just for the sake of voting? 

Is a blind vote really better than no vote at all? 

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