Published 7:50 am Sunday, November 2, 2008
A voter’s responsibility does not end after he or she marks the ballot on Election Day. If anything, it begins.
After listening to months of promises and plans offered by candidates, voters will decide Tuesday who gets elected and given a chance to make good on those promises and plans.
The problem is that many voters believe their job is done as soon as they mark their ballots. Not so. Once the elected officials are in office, voters must make sure they do what they said they would do if they were elected. Voters must hold those they elected to office accountable for their actions, or lack of actions, while in office. Voters are the ultimate authority when it comes to elected officials. Voters put them in office; voters can kick them out of office when the next election cycle rolls around.
In some instances, when an elected official needs to be removed from office before that next election cycle comes around, voters have used recall elections to remove such an official from office.
Like people do when they go the store, buy something, return home only to find the item defective and return it to the store for a replacement item or refund, people may use the power of their votes to replace a “defective” elected official who is not keeping his or her word to those who put him or her in office.
From the president of the United States of America to the supervisor on the board that oversees a soil-and-water district, voters must hold elected officials accountable. Voters support candidates because they have faith in them, faith those candidates who become elected officials will keep their promises and carry out those plans they presented to voters. If an elected official breaches that faith, voters have the right to become upset. They also have the right to turn that elected official out of office at the soonest opportunity.
Voters have a responsibility to fulfill before marking their ballots.
Voters also share the responsibility of educating themselves about the candidates and issues, whether it be at the national level or the local level. The better informed a voter is, the better choices a voter can make when it comes to choosing leadership at the national, state or local levels. When possible, voters should attend forums where candidates discuss their views on issues and problems, including specifics on how they would resolve those issues and problems. Voters should expose themselves to media reports concerning candidates and campaign issues. Voters should visit a candidate’s campaign headquarters or a political party’s campaign headquarters to obtain material about candidates.
Voters will not find out what they need to know about candidates and issues by watching or listening to 30-second sound bites on television stations or radio stations. Instead, they should tune into televised or broadcast debates.
A voter who does not educate himself or herself before marking a ballot is doing an injustice to not just himself or herself but to the voting public.
Voting is a right cherished by most Americans, although voter turnout at times may indicate otherwise. Voting is much more than supporting a candidate.
Being a voter means learning about candidates and issues. It means making sure elected officials are held accountable when it comes to their promises and plans.
Exercising one’s right to vote requires more than just marking a ballot or pulling levers in a voting booth. It means exercising one’s mind.