Vote intelligently

Published 8:57 pm Friday, October 31, 2008

It’s a cliché to encourage our readers to vote on Tuesday. Reminders will be everywhere over the next couple of days, so another one isn’t necessarily needed here.

Here’s some more important advice: Cast an informed vote.

Voting is easy. It’s so easy, in fact, that we take it for granted, or we whine when we have to stand in line for a few minutes because our polling place is crowded.

More difficult is casting an informed vote. That requires a voter to do a little homework before going to the polls.

In this age of sound bites and slick marketing, it’s easy to cast a frivolous vote — to consider only a candidate’s style and appearance and not his substance.

Sadly, in this historic presidential election of 2008, many Americans will base their decisions solely on the candidate’s skin color or gender. Many will vote for Barack Obama because he’s black. Many will vote for John McCain because he’s white and his opponent is black. Many women will see an opportunity to put their fist through the glass ceiling and make Sarah Palin the country’s first female vice president.

Those are poor reasons.

Here’s a better approach: Jot down five issues about which you feel strongly. There are no right or wrong answers. Your issues are your own. Don’t let a candidate, political party, commentator or pollster decide what’s important for you. Decide for yourself.

Once you’ve made your list, go to the Web site of each candidate and study their positions on your issues. Look for specificity. If a candidate dances around the issue, beware.

After you’ve read what the candidates promise to do — or not do — about your issue, see if their track record is consistent with their current positions.

Google “Positions of presidential candidates on major issues” and you’ll find any number of independent assessments of not just what the candidates are saying now but how they’ve voted in the past.

You may or may not find a candidate who agrees with you on every issue. You’ll almost certainly find one who agrees with you on most.