Unless I'm the kind of person who would wait til the day of an election to do some research and get down to the nitty-gritty of actual voter education. I picked up the ballot thing that came in the mail and gave myself about an hour to figure it all out and get down to the polling place before lunch. 8 hours later I finally did.
So what's wrong with me?
I plead guilty to the following things:
* Being uninformed about my elected representatives' performance in office, whether it be local or state or federal - I do keep up with foreign affairs and the big national security issues that I spent so much time studying.
* Not picking up the election material that came in the mail til the day of.
* Being more interested in my own pastimes and personal medical problems than in the local and state budget/political issues.
* Feeling that my one single voice isn't all that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things - I'm more of a servant of democracy (hey - gimme a break - ten years and nine months of service) than an actual participant in it, this being the first time I've successfully voted - the last Presidential election I unsuccessfully tried to vote by absentee ballot in the wrong state apparently, due to having no real fixed place of residence at the time while moving around like crazy in the Navy.
* Thinking that I'd be able to easily and simply and quickly find for-and-against little informative pieces of information on every single thing I'd be asked to vote for.
* Thinking that I'd be voting for at the very most a proposition or two, a Governor and Senator and a Congressperson.
Boy, oh boy was I wrong about that last one...
So, now that we've established my general level of laziness and apathy, let's get some stuff straight that's in my general favour:
* I'm an absolute expert in finding and quickly digesting the pertinent, relevant pieces of information that I need in order to make a fairly informed and educated decision regarding most damn near everything. You can ask me anything, and given a decent library (preferably the Library of Congress - I spent a LOT of time there as an undergraduate) or simply access to a computer with a good internet connex I'll have you an informed answer in a decent amount of time. If you don't let me do research then I'll have to fall back on general principles.
* The ballot was just nuts. 98 people. Ten propositions. Questions like "Should person Umptydoo be elected to Court of Youaintneverheardof for the term specified in the term?" Umptydoo not having any trail of note on the internet. Not having a campaign website. Not having an easily accessible list of accomplishments. Not having any indication whatsoever of what a "No" vote would entail. In short - ZERO voter information on this person.
So what to do?
Half the court appointees I just went on the recommendation (or not) of a high-profile state representative person with whom I've found myself (somewhat to my surprise) in agreement with on some issues in the past. Or in the case of one - voted against solely due to his one single notable and publicly easily available dissent in a notable court case.
Candidate endorsements - expecting that a candidate endorsed by the San Diego Tribune would likely have a slightly higher chance of being more toward the center-conservative side of the political spectrum (if one is to believe what little I could find in a quick research of the Tribune's editorial bias), which I happen to somewhat more identify with to some small degree - and that the LA Times' endorsement could at least somewhat possibly imply a slight liberal bias (though not conclusively so, them being a fairly reputable and conscientious newspaper as far as I can tell). These endorsements could of course also imply a candidate that's overly good at playing the game with special interests and public figures, i.e. selling his soul to tons and tons of people just to rack up a huge webpage of endorsements.
Issues lists on webpages - case in point being the GOP opponent of the near shoo-in Susan Davis for House of Representatives, whose paragraph on abortion read like something I'd write if I didn't want to offend anyone and wanted to get votes from everyone thing. I mean - DAMN, I couldn't have written that better myself - and I'm a VERY accomplished liar, cheater and argumentative good-at-writing type of guy. Trust me on that part about me being good about lying. (You get it? Trust me ...on the lying!)
What do I do if my vote doesn't really matter? The 53rd District is nicely gerrymandered, handing Susan Davis a bit of a sure win, she's widely expected to keep on keepin' on. Susan Davis seems to be a decent person doing a good job. I don't agree with some of the things she has had her office tell me in email replies (sorry, junk mail is not an economic effective net plus for our economy and I don't really give A FLYING F*** about the jobs held by people in the junk mail industry). But I'm facing the reality here that no matter what I put down on that part of the ballot, it's a dead horse. So do I vote for a decent person doing a good job for the party I don't usually agree with and a President that I'm fairly supportive of (I have a hard time not supporting the C-IN-C and feel that it's better to have a leader that has a chance to enact his agenda than to have a leader hamstrung by a bitter and partisan and special-interests-bound bloated legislature addicted to earmarks) - or a person that I somewhat agree with on some other issues but not all, in a party that I'm more instinctually at home with. Ugh, doesn't matter, on to the next question since I'm by now waaaay overdue on the my allotted two hours of research and decisions.
Nice website, btw, Susan Davis. Good job on the facebooking, too - except for the fact that I can't post a simple question on your facebook wall, but I guess that would be abused if you enabled that.
In the end I'm fairly certain I made the best decisions I could have given the amazingly thin material I was given to work with.
If I was a candidate for anything in this election:
* Make sure I give a few interviews in the local papers or at least the biggest regionally read ones.
* Make sure an internet search of my name + "council seat 5" leads to MY website.
* Ummm ...have a website??
* Endorsements and links to where I'm mentioned in their publication/website.
* Quick issues rundown.
* Quick biography.
* Why I'm better than the other person.
* I'd probably lose because I'm not generally the type of person who avoids offending people by only saying/writing the stuff that NO-ONE is gonna get offended by. Stuff like "I believe life begins at conception, but the ultimate decision rests with the woman." Huh? Saaaaay WHAT? Soooooo - your position is that abortion is murder but you're pro-choice about that? I hope you've got some padding on that fence you're sitting on, there, buddy. Pal. Friend.
OFF-TOPIC: I'm fairly comfortable with abortion. Up to a point. Where that point is ...is debatable and each society should come up with its own definition of that point. I'm cool with each state determining if that point should be the third trimester or slightly earlier or slightly later. What goes into and comes out of your body is your business, or should be anyway. If you don't like what's growing inside your body - by all means, kill it. Unless it really can survive on its own fairly certainly WITHOUT medical intervention - or at least a ton of it. By then you're kinda, ...ummmm pretty committed, you know. Unless you just escaped from Josef Fritzl or you're Jaycee Lee Dugard or similar. Yes, I'm on shaky moral/philosophical ground here - but I'm more of a hey-this-works kinda guy than an "Everything's gotta be perfect and you should all think like me!" person.
End result is I'm a bit pissed off about elected legislating politicians pushing responsibility for determining this or that social issue onto the poor uninformed dumbass voter rather than taking it on the chin and voting about it in the state parliament. Speaking of which - why the **** does California need both an upper and a lower house? Gimme a bloody break.
These propositions and public referendums (referenda?) also served to hamstring or tie the hands of elected representatives and governors when they try to accomplish things like balancing a budget or cutting programs that are hard to cut due to a small part of the electorate caring a whole lot about it. Take the initiative to fund park stuff with an increased car tax. Sounds great. Until you realize that it just frees up money for other stuff and doesn't necessarily do anything good for parks. It's called ballot box budgeting and politics as usual.
Bad on me for not getting off my duff earlier. I plead laziness, Your Honour. And a side of sciatica with a sprinkling of pain - not that that's an excuse.
Bad on me for not caring much about local or state stuff.
Bad on them for not making it easy to figure out whether I should vote for them or not.
Bad on the media for not making it easy to see who's a liberal, who's a conservative and what I should care about in this election based on my fairly well articulated personal beliefs.
I should be able to go to ONE single webpage (hey, San Diego Tribune, you listening?), plunk in what city/county/part of city I'm voting in, and go down a list and find - on the left, each left-leaning politician with a blurb and a website link, and on the right each right-leaning politician with a blurb and a link, and each independent/centrist person as well, and a tiny bit of info on each of these judicial electees and what their records look like and what the person or organization or newspaper that made the website endorses. Then all I gotta do is run down the page, knowing what my personal beliefs and leanings are and plug in my choices - and when in doubt or if I feel like deepening my understanding of the race for Assessortroller Judgettorney of District Fiftyeleven Seat No. 5 I just click the link to each candidate's page of deeper facts/statements. Done deal. OH NO - we can't have that! That'd be too easy - especially if the newspaper in question made ONE small simple text page available for each candidate to write on it what they wanted. Or place link to their official slickly produced campaign site.
Bad on the system for encouraging attack ads and the massive amount of money that's needed to get elected these days.
Bad on the American public for being, well, frankly stupid quite a lot. Uneducated, angry and fed a steady stream of supposedly fair and supposedly balanced 10-second soundbite news. And that wasn't even a dig at Fox News, that was a dig at ALL of them.
Good on us for actually making this whole system work even through all our divisions and racial and ethnic hatred and languages and religious fanatics on the right and kooks on the left and liars everywhere.
Yeah, good on us, America. Hell to the yes on that one.