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What to Consider When Voting This Year

By James Trent
On April 25, 2018

The 2018 midterm elections may prove to be one of the most important midterms in recent history. That said, it is equally important to put the midterms into context before votes are cast in November.

Let’s get one thing straight: voting is important. If you didn’t register to vote before April 17, you really should have. Voting is the foundation of a democracy, which we do live in, believe it or not. Voting is the way lawmakers and officials hear our voices, and every vote does count. There is an interesting phenomenon called “The Paradox of Voting.” It’s when people do not vote because they think their voice doesn’t matter, but paradoxically, not voting is the only legitimate way to invalidate a vote. Simply put, the only way to make your vote not count is to not vote at all, and it is a surefire way to make sure your views do not get represented in D.C.

Midterm elections do not get the air time and publicity of presidential elections, either. Often, people think that they can skip their midterm elections because local elections do not matter, but that is not true either. In fact, because of the way our system is designed, state representatives like house members or senators are supposed to be the people actually getting stuff done. For all the publicity the President gets, the President actually has surprisingly little power to actually make laws. Almost everything of importance has to go through Congress. The President’s only role in that is to sign the law after it passes or veto it, and a veto can still be overruled by Congress if they really wanted to do it. There is a distribution of power that ensures that no one person has too much power that they could use to enforce their will on the people. Allegedly, Congress is supposed to agree as a group on things that would be beneficial for America, and ideally, Americans would want what Congress is selling. That’s democracy, baby.

However, some misconceptions have risen about how, and by extension who, we should vote for. The Presidential election might be the most publicized election, but the midterms are more important in many ways. One vote rarely decides an election, but every vote does matter and people actually voting is the way to enact change. But who exactly are we supposed to vote for, anyway?

Everyone knows that politicians tell people what they want to hear, regardless of the truth. It’s understandable. They are trying to get elected, for whatever reason, and they need to be persuasive when they are asking people for their vote. However, this habit of politicians saying one thing when elections are happening and then doing something else has bred a lot of distrust and made it hard to know what exactly candidates stand for. If we have to vote for someone, which we all should, how do we choose who to vote for?

I will tell you this: whoever you vote for, you should not vote for them because they seem to agree with you. Politicians, by their nature, say what people want to hear, and so as voters we need to have some skepticism when we hear candidates promising to do exactly what we want. What candidates have done in the past is a much better indicator of what they will do than what they say they will  do. For example, if someone is claiming to be an authority on mine safety but has to deny their involvement with a devastating mining disaster with every other breath, they might be stretching the truth a bit.

Voters should not be trying to run for office by proxy, either. No candidate is going to completely agree with all of their voters. It’s just not possible, and that should not be what we look for as voters. It is important that our views be represented, but we have to remember that we are essentially hiring someone for a job. If we agree with what someone promises to do in office, then that is great, but they need to be qualified, too. Anyone can say something that appeals to our emotions or worldview, but that does not mean that they can actually handle running a whole state or country just because they talk a big game. Candidates need to be able to actually handle the responsibility of the office they hold, and “talking big” shouldn’t cut it. If someone just came to mind when you read that, it’s between you and God. But there will be a time where our elected officials need to make a decision that they can’t ask for the public’s input on, and we should vote with that in mind.

I’m not trying to tell you who to vote for, but also I am. Vote for the person that understands the issues and will be able to handle the office once they are elected. There might be some compromise there, and voters need to find a balance between who they agree with and who will actually do a good job. There is no such thing as a perfect candidate. We can only vote for who we think might be the best candidate, and sometimes that comes with pros and cons. That’s democracy too, baby.

If you’re interested in seeing West Virginia’s midterm candidates, visit http://services.sos.wv.gov/apps/elections/candidate-search/ to find out who is running for each office.

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