There's no excuse for not voting

Lesley Toth

The debates are over. The ballots have been printed. The ads are finally making their way to the dust bins of political history.

My desk has been cleared of the ever-growing mound of political pamphlets, press releases and responses from local and state candidates for public office. My email has been purged of all those messages I saved to be sure I wasn’t overlooking anyone or anything this political season.

After this issue, I can breathe a bit easier and simply wait for the final ballots to be counted and write my final election story sometime at 10 p.m. that Tuesday in order to make it in that week’s issue.

That slow, hissing emanating across Milaca, swooping across the trees and roof tops isn’t the sound of hot air being sucked away by those snowbirds flying south this fall. It’s the deep, much needed sigh of relief this reporter is loudly making.

If it’s one thing I’m good at complaining about — it’s politics. While the election season puts an extra grump in my grumpy, I do appreciate the enormous responsibility that is being a responsible citizen of democracy. I will proudly walk into my voting precinct in just 11 days and cast my ballot.

It’s troubling, however, that not everyone takes this tremendous opportunity to engage in governing. I have some friends who have said (without so much as a hint of sarcasm or jest), “What’s the point? They’re all the same.”

Apparently some of my friends spend more time watching MTV than CNN and too much time reading celebrity gossip and not enough newsprint. While democracy can be slow to change and promises flow from politicians’ lips like beer at our brat cook-outs, not all politicians are alike. And the choices we have in many of our elections could not be much different from each other.

I had a wonderful “teaching moment” last weekend when my incredibly smart stepson told me he was voting for Bart Simpson for president. After reminding my little darling that he wasn’t voting — for anyone — for at least another six years, I asked him why he felt that way.

He responded as most do when I press them on their voter apathy, “Well, someone said this and another guy said that.” I asked if he had taken the time to visit any of the candidate’s websites, if he had read news reports on their policy stances, if he had watched any of the debates. “No,” he sullenly replied. I also asked what he would hope to accomplish by writing in a candidate such as Mr. Simpson. “I dunno, it’s funny,” he said.

While it’s certainly understandable that a 12-year-old’s perception of politics can be so easily molded based on what someone may have said on the bus, we adults do not have the luxury of such an excuse. And pre-teens may find voting for some cartoon character funny, but the fact that thousands of grown-ups write in “Mickey Mouse” every election for the office of POTUS is disturbing.

We may feel the candidates who eventually make their way to the final ballot aren’t exactly the creme of the crop. But, as I told my son and those friends of mine who profess their non-voting as a form of protest — if you don’t vote, don’t complain. And if you make a mockery of the system by writing-in fictional animated characters, you just may find a system that makes a mockery of you.

I don’t care who you vote for (as long as they’re a real, living person) — vote. On November 6, I will be wearing my complimentary pin courtesy of the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office honoring my favorite veteran, and I’ll see you at the polls!