Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An Informed Electorate?

Sitting in San Diego County Superior Court on election day, waiting to see if I would be selected for jury duty, the conversation among the perspective jurors eventually turned to the general election. Nobody was talking about the presidential or congressional races, we were in California, the left coast, and the outcome of those contests was not in doubt. Instead, the discussion centered on the eleven propositions before the Californian electorate. Normally, I won’t hesitate before leaping into a political debate, but I was among strangers so I decided to shut up and listen.

What I heard disturbed me. As they argued over the various propositions, it was obvious that no one had a clear understanding of the issues they were discussing.  It seemed that the totality of everyone’s knowledge regarding the propositions had come from television commercials – advertisements that were so distorted and diametrically opposed that it was often hard to accept that they were addressing the same issue.

When I could’t take it any longer, I interjected: “Has anyone even read the actual text of any of the propositions?”  Everyone stopped speaking. They waited for me to say something else but I was unable to muster another word. In disgust, just got up and walked off to the restroom. I’m sure they thought I was an asshole.

Deciding which candidates to vote for is difficult because, as we all know, they have a penchant for unturths. Voting on the propositions, however, is much easier because we don’t have to rely on someone else’s interpretation of a proposed statute. In California, the Secretary of State sends a voter information guide to every household. The guide contains a summary of each proposition, arguments for and against those propositions, rebuttals to those arguments, and finally, the full text of each new law.  Unfortunately, the guide is 143 pages long and not nearly as engaging as Fifty Shades of Grey. Almost no one reads it. Nobody I spoke to before the election had read it.

We cannot protect our own interests if we don’t understand what is at stake. If the sole source of our information comes from political advertisements, then we deserve what we get. For those of you who may think that my diatribe is just post campaign sour grapes, I’m happy to report that I was not disappointed by the election results. But I'd prefer to see the candidates and issues I support defeated by an informed electorate rather than finding myself on the winning side of a debate simply because those with differing views couldn't be bothered to prepare. 


  1. Perhaps Alexander Hamilton put it best when he said: The masses are asses.

  2. I so agree. I can accept that other people have different opinions than I do, but when the opinions are the result of half-baked internet yahoos spouting off... grrr....

  3. Yes Sir you are so right in that most of the voters are so uninformed that it is pathetic.

    We do the mail in ballots in our home and while filling them out we actually sat down at the kitchen table and I read the voters information guide on each proposition, the description, the pros, cons, the whole nine yards.

    We discussed, reread, and marked our ballots according to what each person thought proper, I believe we were more informed by doing this, and yes the California Voter Information guide is quite a novel.

    1. Jimmy, I do the exact same thing, marking it up with yellow highlighter and notes. It's comforting to know that I'm not just being weird. (Okay, I might still be weird, but not for this.)

  4. So true Joe! I used to sit down with those too (when I was in CA). Great post!