Uninformed voting wreaks havoc

By Elsa Schmitz, Opinion Editor

Many students may have noticed small packets arrive in the mail containing important information concerning the upcoming Election Day on Nov. 4.

While voting is one of those patriotic duties that is drilled into students’ brains beginning in high school, how many people actually take the time to learn about the initiatives and topics that are on the ballot? Being an informed voter is probably more important than just simply sending in your ballot.

The initiatives and topics that are brought to voters on Election Day have a direct impact on the workings of the government. While this year may not bring heavy-hitting electoral battles like a presidential election, the topics are still relative to the EWU community.

One topic, for instance, is Washington Initiative 522, which regards the labelling of genetically modified foods. If passed, this initiative may require the university to label food products that contain genetically modified materials.

If a voter did not read the packet that is sent out before Election Day, then unless they are able to get information from a different source, they would not have any way of knowing fully what Initiative 522 was for. By voting without being informed on the topics, a person may help an initiative to pass that they might not even want to go into effect.

Dr. Thomas Hawley, department of government associate professor and chairman, noted the hardships voters might experience in the search for information. “Unfortunately it’s not as easy to become informed on these things as we might hope it would be.”

Should a person vote if they are not informed on the topics presented on the ballot? Perhaps it would be better if they abstained from voting if they aren’t fully informed on the topics presented. If an initiative were to pass and the voter would then not like the initiative, then the fault falls upon the voter for not being informed on the ballot.

“Short of the ideal [world], vote for what you know.” Hawley said.

What should someone do in a situation where you are informed on only some of the topics presented in the ballot? If this is the case, then only vote for the topics you know about, and leave the rest blank. Try to avoid that need to fill in every bubble for the sake of completing the ballot — this is just like the SATs. Sending in an incomplete ballot is allowed, and those votes that were cast will count.

“It does not invalidate a ballot to only answer some of the questions that are on it.” Hawley said. “So you are really clear on two of the four issues, and totally unclear on the other two, you can just vote for the two [that you know].”

Hawley cited sources like newspapers, editorial pieces, Google and other countries’ enactments of similar initiatives as sources of information available to voters. However, sometimes it is not that easy to find information. When that happens, perhaps it would be better if a person abstained from voting.

Abstaining from voting when not informed, while at first seeming like bad advice, will lead to more informed voters having a voice. Instead of having the most voters with the least information, there will be fewer voters with more knowledge.

Ballot Breakdown
Graphic by Kyle Pearson