Today is Election Day in the United States. Did you do your civic duty?
This responsibility involves more than just showing up to a polling place and filling out a bubbled sheet of paper. To properly do your civic duty, you need to research your ballot ahead of time: look at the issues (props), look at the positions, and look at the people who are up for election. It’s not about voting for the people you like the most, or the people your parents like the most, or the people who put out the best campaign ads. It’s about voting for the people who will do the best for all of the citizens they represent (not just you), and you can’t do that based on campaign ads or charisma.
We live in a society that gives us complete access to our politicians’ public service history: look up how they voted on issues in the past, look up how they spent your tax dollars, look up how they treat the people around them. When you find things you don’t support, tally them up, and when you find things you do support, tally them up; you’re going to find things on both sides of the tally sheet for every politician, regardless of their public image. Review your list and decide which person is the one that best upholds the office, the person who is most likely to do the best job for all of their constituents, regardless of race, creed, religion, origins, gender, age, marital status, sexuality, financial situation, and bubblegum flavor. That’s the person you vote for.
Research your propositions. Learn how to read legislative terminology so you can read and understand the text of the proposition, because the pro and con groups are going to apply spin to demonstrate what they want you to see. Read the text of the proposition and, if applicable, look up the history behind it. Weigh the benefits against the costs. An imperfect piece of legislation that makes an immediate improvement to society as a whole is often better than doing nothing. You can always vote for people who will work on fixing the imperfections; you may not get another shot at the immediate improvement if the proposition gets shot down. One of the biggest spins that groups put on propositions is how money collected by the legislation will be spent; phrases like “100% of net profits will be donated” make great soundbites for politicians, but if “net profits” amount to 0.5% of the gross profits, while 99% of the gross profits go into the pockets of those directly involved with the money-making venture, is that legislation really worthwhile? Is the societal harm done by the venture worth the minuscule societal benefit?
Your civic duty means thinking about society, not just about yourself.