Recognizing the importance of voting

Emily Doran

With elections looming, both local and presidential, many Grand Valley State University students will have the opportunity to vote for the first time. This is certainly a daunting prospect with many serious implications. 

For me, at least, this civic right is both personally liberating and one of the most profound ways in which I can express my identity as an independent, self-governing person. Still, I am deeply cognizant of the responsibility which naturally accompanies the right to vote.

First, there is the issue of taking the time to research the different candidates and their respective backgrounds, reputations and platforms. Before I turned 18, I had little reason to familiarize myself with candidates for public office. Now that I am a legal adult and a registered voter, however, I am obligated to become familiarized with them and their positions in order to make a responsible and informed voting decision. Surely it is important for all voters, myself included, to conduct sufficient research on candidates in order to be good and worthy stewards of their right to vote.

Next, there is the issue of what criteria to use when making voting decisions. This seems to be the area where responsibly exercising one’s right to vote gets a bit dicey, wandering into the realms of personal ethics and senses of morality, and it is perhaps this aspect of being a responsible voter which bothers me the most. 

After all, I am anxious not to be guided by a skewed personal ideology or to vote based on a particular issue which may not, in the world outside my own, be the most important problem in the most need of immediate attention. Nevertheless, this is how most voters seem to go about selecting candidates to support. Naturally, they first draw upon their own ideas, beliefs and codes of ethics and morality, and then they use these personal agendas to determine which issue is most important to them and vote according to that particular issue. While it is only natural for someone to use this method, I would urge prospective voters to consider also the veracity of their beliefs and whether the issues which they deem to be most important are actually so. 

Perhaps, after reevaluating your priorities, you will think differently than you did before, or perhaps you will think the same. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to try.

Finally, another issue which I think is important to consider is whether it is better to vote for “the lesser of two evils,” so to speak, or to abstain from voting at all. Imagine if all of the candidates running had policies that did not align with your own beliefs and priorities. Would you still vote for one of them—the one whose ideas and theories were least repellant to your own—or would you, perhaps as a matter of conscience, refrain from voting for any of them? This issue in particular has been weighing heavily on my mind lately as I consider the upcoming elections.

Although I am still sorting out potential answers to these issues, in the end, I think that being a responsible voter comes down to being as informed as possible: The more you know, the more you can formulate your own theories and beliefs, understand the relevant issues and vote responsibly.