With the general election coming up next month, we hear the biennial shibboleth:

“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”

Baloney!

On this point, I part ways with my journalistic colleagues who are intent on trying to shame citizens into casting a vote, telling us: It’s not important how you vote; just vote.

At the risk of repeating myself, Baloney!

What’s important is casting an informed vote. Blindly marking a ballot without knowing anything about the candidates or the issues subverts the system.

Casting an uninformed vote is worse than not voting. An uncast vote is harmless; an uninformed vote can cancel out the vote of a citizen who casts an informed vote.

I did that. Once.

As a freshman at FSU, I dutifully voted in the student body election in my freshman year. I didn’t know any of the candidates, or what they stood for. I knew nothing about student government.

The ballot listed where each candidate was from, and I voted for the candidates who lived in, or closest to, Polk County.

On reflection, I realized how absurd that was. In future elections, I voted only in races in which I knew at least some of the candidates, casting my ballots for those I knew to have good judgment.

One was a fellow government major, now a retired Polk County lawyer; one was a fellow ROTC cadet, who later rose to a position of leadership in the Florida Legislature.

In races in which I knew nothing about any of the candidates, I didn’t vote, leaving the electoral process to students who bothered to inform themselves.

Voting is a privilege, a decision that each of us has the right of exercising — or not exercising — in each election.

The First Amendment guarantees, among other things, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

This right is granted to all Americans. You have the right to complain — to petition your government for a redress of grievances — regardless of whether or not you voted, or for whom.

You have the right to vote in the one or two races that are particularly important to you, and not to vote in the races about which you know nothing.

You even have the right to ceremonially hold your nose and vote for the candidate whom you believe to be the less worse of two awful choices; I have done so several times, including in the 2016 presidential election.

Your decision to vote rests solely with you.

It’s an opportunity, not an obligation.

———

(S. L. Frisbie is retired. When buying groceries a few days ago, he had to produce a driver’s license to prove that he could legally buy a bottle of wine. This has nothing to do with voting, but at 77 years of age, he had to brag about it.)

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