What’s wrong with the way we vote

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March 19, 2012

10:54 PM

Before I start, I want to clarify that all of my examples are fictitious and I, in no way, endorse or intend to support any one candidacy duo over another. These examples only serve to point out the larger issue at hand. Now, to begin:

Election season is upon us. Campaign posters flap on every bulletin board as six pairs of students vie for two positions. Much like the national primaries, the initial game of who’s-who dominates conversation and too often sways our vote.

On a much smaller scale, the College of William and Mary mirrors the way in which our nation acts during election season. First, we start with a list of names and see if any catch our eye. Look at Newt Gingrich — the Republican candidate enjoyed early momentum and support because he caught our attention. How can you not with a name like Newt?

Try to tell me that when you first saw the list of candidates you didn’t immediately scan the list looking for names you might recognize. Try to tell me that you’re not going to vote for Dallen McNerney ’14 and Stacey LaRiviere ’14 if you happen to be their roommate or best friend or friend of their friends. Just as in the national race, we look first to the easiest option: Vote for who you know.

Next we look to see if the candidate’s characteristics match our own. Mitt Romney is a prime example: The 70th governor of Massachusetts won the Massachusetts primary with a resounding 72.2 percent of the vote. Unless you had a real problem with the duo, there’s a really good chance you’re going to vote for Noah Kim ’13 and Sky Sprayberry ’15 if you live in either of their dorms.

Finally, we line up the candidates and pick the one that we think can help us the most on a personal, selfish level. For years, presidential candidate Ron Paul managed to stay in the running thanks to the support of a few very rich individuals who would gain a great deal from Paul’s presidency. Likewise, if you have a bone to pick with the massage chairs in Swem and you happened to see Curt Mills ’13 and Melanie Levine ’13 get up from the massage chairs looking disgruntled, are you trying to tell me you’re not even going to think about voting for them? No, you’re not.

Unfortunately, we make our decisions based on such trivial pursuits. The fact that we vote for one candidate over another based on a familiar name is absurd. To vote for someone because they have a well-laid out dorm room is borderline insane. To support a duo because of that one time you saw them with that look on their face is outrageous.

Rather, we need our votes to reflect what’s actually at stake. Instead of asking who’s who, ask ‘What can they do?’ Don’t take the easy route and vote because you once had dinner with the friend of your friend’s friend who happens to be Grace Colby ’13 or Alyssa Zhu ’14.

Actually look at the platforms. Actually be an informed voter. It’s not hard — check out one of those overcrowded bulletin boards and go to the advertised website. Vote for a candidate because you agree with their stance, not because of with whom they stand. If you saw David Alpert ’13 and Meghan Moore ’13 grab some food at Sadler Center Dining Hall, vote because you know the issues and not because they’re eating your favorite sandwich.

Each and every candidate wants your vote, but don’t give them your vote because you know that your fraternity brother played with Andrew Canakis ’13 and Andrew Salamone ’13 during one intramural season.

They always say one vote can make a big difference. Your vote might be the deciding vote: How pathetic would it be if you voted because you saw a certain candidate at the Commons Dining Hall during dinner last night? Make sure that your vote is grounded in fact and reason, not circumstance or recognizability.

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About Author

Chris Weber

Senior staff writer Chris Weber '15 is an English major from Spotsylvania, Va. He was previously Sports Editor.