News | Campus | Entertainment | Features | Sports | Home

Friday, October 30, 1998
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 49

Spenke on the Real World

Staff Editorial

About the Cougar

Preserve democracy: Don't vote

R. Alex Whitlock

"Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day."

-- Thomas Jefferson

It's that time of year again. November is creeping up on us, and no doubt newspaper after newspaper and columnist after columnist will tell you it's time to do your civic duty and vote. Well, I'm not going to tell you that.

In fact, I'm going to encourage many of you to stay home Nov. 3.

It is not our job to simply go out to the ballot boxes and vote. It doesn't stop there. Our job is to go out, knowing as much as possible, and vote in those races in which we are informed. The biggest problem with American democracy is not the non-voter. It is the ignorant voter.

The ignorant voter takes a number of forms and philosophies. Some vote for the candidate whose name sounds the best. Some vote for any and all females. Some only vote for Hispanic-sounding names. On a lesser scale, some punch the "straight-party vote" hole and vote for every candidate belonging to that party.

In all of the above cases, and more, ignorant voters are the true, usually unwitting, enemies of our system of government.

As opposed to non-voters, who only spite themselves by refusing to take part in the electoral process, ignorant voters spoil it for the rest of us conscientious voters who take the time to read up on the issues and candidates. By always voting Republican or Democrat or female or anything, they are making it harder for the conscientious voters to help choose the most qualified candidates.

Some of you are probably thinking to yourself, "I vote straight-ticket Democrat/Republican because I agree with their philosophies." Well, if that's the way you think, fine. However, there is nothing more dangerous than voting for candidates you don't know anything about, even if you've heard of them and not their opponents. It is ignorance like this that led to the election of many unqualified judges in 1994. Unqualified and corrupt people will always reach office by depending on the ignorance of voters.

A morally bankrupt businessman is about to become land commissioner by preying on the ignorance of voters who happen to be voting Republican this season. An exceptional public servant could lose his bid for lieutenant governor because he happens to be a Democrat in a race with a popular Republican governor. Both of these could be avoided with a more informed electorate.

My roommate is an ardent Democrat, but even he, who has never supported a Republican in his life, does not vote in races in which he is not familiar with the participants. While party affiliation may be an important identifier in major races, such as governor or attorney general, it is a non-issue in many positions. (Does it really matter if the county clerk is a Republican or Democrat?)

Furthermore, you simply cannot support the argument that either the Republicans or Democrats are inherently more qualified for the dozens of judgeships this election. If you are under that false impression, let me know and I can certainly provide a counter-argument.

Do I want you all to just stay home? Not really. Do I want you all to vote for the same people that I do? While that would be nice, it's certainly not what I'm asking for. I simply want you to take the time to get to know who you're voting for.

How? It has never been easier with the Internet at your disposal. If you want information on the statewide races, take a trip to my Web site,; congressional and legislature information can be found at Project Vote Smart's Web site,; and information on races for judgeships can be found at

Now go be good soldiers for democracy and vote smart this November. If it's not worth the effort to research the races, then please stay home and let me decide your leaders for you.

Whitlock, a sophomore information systems
technology major, can be reached at

Last update:

Visit The Daily Cougar