And First Do No Harm

on October 28, 2010

Next Tuesday is election day.

You probably expect me to tell you to go out and vote. People fought and died for your right to vote. It is your duty and obligation to vote.

But I’m not.

One of my biggest pet peeves has been rubbed raw these last two weeks, and I apologize but you all are going to take the brunt of my rant. I have had to remove multiple posts on my facebook page from the “Just Go Vote” people. I’ve had to ignore numerous tweets about how important it is to vote. I’ve had it up to here with people yammering about the importance of voting. Why? Because they don’t talk about voting smart. They don’t talk about knowing what and who you are voting for or against. It’s as if the act of voting is what matters–that it is a right–when, in fact, it is a privilege.

Felons can’t vote. Citizens under 18 can’t vote. Non-citizens aren’t suppose to vote, either. Voting is a privilege–and yes, a right guaranteed by the Constitution. And I am honored and proud of all the men and women who have died defending my right to vote. I am humbled that we live in a country where we can vote–easily–without fear for our lives or retaliation.

But honestly, the next person who tells me to “just go vote” is going to get an earful.

Please do not vote unless you know what you’re voting for–or against.

My husband and I were discussing this today, because I was on a tear after hearing someone espouse the necessity of voting. Dan said it was like telling the surgeon to “just make the cut.” We know the patient needs surgery, just go cut into him.

We’d never want a surgeon cutting us open unless he was trained. And I don’t want people voting for candidates or initiatives unless they know what they are doing.

Elections mean something. Just last year, two Georgia elections were decided by just one vote. But it’s not just a single vote–what about elections decided by ten votes? Less than one hundred votes? In close congressional races with tens of thousands of votes cast, many elections are decided by less than point one percent (.1%).

I worked in the California State Legislature for 13 years. There are a lot of idiots elected. And a lot of good people. And a lot of good people who end up acting like idiots after they are elected. But every one I have voted for, I knew that I agreed with them more than I disagreed with them; I knew what to expect from them should they be elected. Every initiative I have voted for or against I’ve read most or all of the text so that I had a good idea what the initiative would do should it pass. Last election cycle there was a local issue that I completely missed in my sample ballot. When I couldn’t figure out what it would do from the summary available in the voting booth, I skipped it. I consider myself fairly well educated about government, but I refuse to vote on an issue if I can’t be confident in what my vote means. And while I generally vote party line, I refuse to cast a vote in a race unless I can agree with the candidate more than disagree. I’ll just skip the race.

Your vote matters. It means something–something so important that it was a factor in the American Revolution. Don’t throw your vote away. Don’t “just vote.” Don’t vote without thought. Your vote, not voting itself, is what matters. So go to the polls on election day and vote with knowledge and confidence, not because you think you just have to go vote.

P.S. While this is a political post in one sense, it’s not partisan, so please refrain from making partisan political statements because I will delete them–even if I agree with them. You can disagree with my premise, however!

What I’d like to discuss is something my friend and blogmate Louise Ure over at Murderati brought up a few weeks ago. If she disagrees with someone politically or on an issue important to her, she’ll stop reading their books or listening to their music. As a former legislative staffer, I of course have definite opinions about many things, but I don’t generally share them publicly. Some of my feelings about criminal justice and crime in general are evident in my books–I think necessary considering my focus of crime fiction–but I don’t get into most political arenas. In fact, in my first short story I wrote–“Killing Justice” in KILLER YEAR–I had a Democrat hero and a Democrat villain. In my second short story–“Capitol Obsession” in TWO OF THE DEADLIEST–I had a Republican hero and a Republican villain. Both stories had many of the truths I dealt with as a staffer that I found frustrating, but they were still fiction.

Unless someone is particularly offensive or in-your-face, I don’t like or dislike their work (books, music, movies) because of their political opinion or personal values (e.g. being an adulterer.)

What about you? Again, please don’t be partisan in your comments, but I’m genuinely curious. One commenter will win a copy of KILLER YEAR and one commenter will win a copy of TWO OF THE DEADLIEST.