Read this or vote straight ticket to save time
On Monday, the voting polls for Houston residents opened and will stay open until next Friday. Many Houston residents are heading to the polls early to avoid long lines and wasting time. The main perk of voting early is that you can get in and out with ease.
For most people, the process of voting is relatively easy. A potential voter might listen to some nightly news or read the Houston Chronicle. Unfortunately for most, this is about where the ceiling is as far as becoming informed is concerned.
A serious voter — one that is engulfed in politics and listens to NPR chronically — might research the candidates and maybe even the views of said candidate on specific issues. In reality though, informed and eager voters are the true minority.
The majority of people fall somewhere around the middle of the spectrum of informed to uninformed. They stay somewhat knowledgeable, they read the paper periodically and occasionally watch or listen to a debate.
A few things are common among most all of these potential and certain voters; they identify with one party more so than another and they almost never research all the candidates or propositions on the ballot at hand.
One reason voters never arrive to a poll fully informed is due to the fact that the ballots today are too long.
The City of Houston might have the longest ballot in the country. Overall the Houston ballot contains 252 candidates for 142 election contests. Granted that no voter will have to vote in all 142 election contests, each voter is sure to have a daunting list of election contests in front of them.
It is no surprise that most voters become apathetic with this long of a ballot. The average person of voting age doesn’t even have time to do their homework on 10 candidates. For most registered voters, the work is done once they cast their vote for governor and maybe a few other candidates.
The rest of the voting is done by either straight ticket voting or by something as significant as eeny-meeny-miny-mo. In some cases, there is only one candidate for the corresponding office and the choice becomes clear — all you have to do is click the box.
The average student voter can be more apathetic than other voters at the poll and the situation can then be further simplified. Many student voters will show up to the polls to decide between Perry and White, but the rest of the contests will probably be chosen by party affiliation or comical names — like Crappito, for example.
The length of the ballots is so great that you can’t even memorize everybody you wish to vote for contest by contest. The rare, responsible voter who studies the candidates and researches the propositions on the ballot will literally need to write down the names of all the people they wish to vote for.
In an article published in The Houston Chronicle, UH political science professor Richard Murray said, “It’s almost certain it’s the longest ballot in the history in the state because we’re by far the biggest county,” Murray said.
This is not a list you can pen down on a post-it note. A list of this size will require at least one full sheet of paper and probably an amount of time commensurate to driving to a polling location in the middle of rush hour traffic.
The time required to research 200 or more candidates is something most dedicated college students couldn’t do in a few weeks even if they were going to be graded on it.
In an article published last Friday in the Houston Chronicle by Jeannie Kever, a poll conducted by students at Rice University showed the lack of interest among young voters. “This year, a poll by Rice University students found just 3.5 percent of Houston residents between 18 and 25 are likely to vote in the upcoming elections. That compares to half of people between 45 and 65,” Kever said.
One easy way to greatly reduce the time spent on researching candidates and becoming informed on the elections is to look to those whom you respect.
For many, the logical choice is their friend who they work with or the person who they graduated college with.
One quality source of information that is readily available is the endorsements made by the Houston Chronicle editorial board. This is a good source regardless of your political leaning because it is one that represents the opinions of several intelligent people as opposed to just one or a few.
Moreover, the endorsements made by the Chronicle come from the people who cover the candidates all year long, long before the elections come into conversation. These endorsements are a product of numerous articles of news coverage, and also from propositions to face-to-face meetings with the candidates themselves.
The Chronicle will even provide a full article for each candidate endorsed. This is much more than you will get from any television smear ad or nightly news sound bite.
The endorsement articles also serve as a quicker method for those who are looking for substance. Many of the endorsements made by the Chronicle editorial board are supported with facts, history, and actual quotes from candidates and experts from many fields. The chances of finding other sources of summaries and endorsements based on facts are likely to be few and far between.
There is sure to be at least a few readers who will be quick to call this a bias from someone within the print journalism industry. To the critics who will charge with this accusation, the task is yours to find a better solution to being informed and voting intelligently.
The print media serves the public with the daily news and is the vehicle that has been breaking stories since the invention of the printing press. If the contents printed were useless and slanted, the industry would have become extinct long ago. Regardless, many will cast their vote with little forethought and the print media will do what it does day in and day out — report the outcome.
If you are planning to take to the polls and do more than spin the polling wheel arbitrarily as if you were a contestant on The Wheel of Fortune, do yourself a favor and at least consider the endorsements printed in the media. At the very least, it’s worth the gas and time you’ll spend driving to the poll.
Andrew Taylor is an economics senior and may be reached at [email protected].