Posted by: lcowie | November 4, 2008

Uninformed voters

Alamance County’s uninformed voters have the power to change local government

by Lesley Cowie

Tuesday's News and Record offers suggestions about state and local politicians, providing informed criticism about each person.

Tuesday's News & Record offers suggestions about state and local candidates, providing informed criticism of each person.

“I’m Barack Obama, and I approve this message.” Flip the channel. “I’m John McCain, and I approve this message.”

Flip the channel. “I’m Susan Burch, and I approve this message.” Who is that?

As voters head off to the polls knowing who they want for president, the ballot contains more than just Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama’s names. A long list of other names awaits them: local candidates. But these names often get passed over due to many voters’ lack of research.

Some first-time voters may be unaware that the presidential ballot also contains information regarding local races. After choosing their presidential candidate of choice, voters must then decide on a course of action — skip the rest of the ballot or vote for the names that sound appealing?

In some cases, such as when out-of-state Elon University students register to vote in Alamance County, uninformed voters can completely change local government.

Follow the party

“It’s a little easier when the district judges include their party affiliation,” junior Ben Goodwin said. “That way if you are a Democrat, you can vote for a Democratic candidate. If they don’t list a party affiliation, I generally skip that race.”

Junior Charles Sposato shared Goodwin’s sentiments for party affiliation but said that voters who have no intention of voting based on information should stick with their party or not vote at all.

“Some people will go through and vote for who has the biggest or most colorful sign, and while that is the purpose of campaigning, to garner these votes, in the end it does not always work out the best for the community,” Sposato said.

Some voters, Sposato said, go down the list and check all the top names or the bottom names or the names that have the letter “h” in them. These votes, he added, skew the race and put people in power that may or may not be as qualified as others.

Most uninformed voters probably think the local politicians will do nothing for them. In actuality, he said, the local politicians will do more than any of the state or federal leaders.

Search for information

Having voted by absentee ballot, junior Ben Goodwin smiles and relaxes on Election Day.

Having voted by absentee ballot, junior Ben Goodwin smiles and relaxes on Election Day.

Goodwin, who completed an absentee ballot, went on to say that he approached the local races by calling his mom in Hendersonville, NC. Since he resides at Elon for most of the year, it is hard to remember who is on the school board back home.

“I did it on the spot,” he said. “If she picked up the phone, then I’d vote. If she didn’t pick up, then I would have skipped that part. It’s better to not vote for those slots if you don’t know the candidates. I could potentially vote for someone who is totally against my views.”

Like Goodwin, junior Kelsey Miller also did research on the local candidates.

“I basically voted for the incumbents, unless the candidate had a good view on education,” Miller said. “That was my quick way to determine who the best candidate was.”

Had she not voted by absentee ballot, Miller said she would have tried to find a listing of candidates prior to voting at the polls. For those who are uninformed about local candidates, it is probably best to skip those sections of the ballot, she said.

Newspapers, such as the Greensboro News & Record and The Pendulum, have provided information about local candidates, allowing uninformed voters to have a brief idea of who to vote for. If all other attempts fail, these Elon students suggest skipping the local part of the ballot, rather than randomly selecting candidates.

Senior Bobby Chamberlain explains why some voters are uninformed and his opinion of how their frivolous votes affect local government.

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