Jerry’s Voting Decision Tree for the Uninformed Voter

Admittedly, this year it is hard to find the “undecided” voter. So this post is intended for all twelve of you out there that truly are undecided about how to vote. This decision tree can be used for all elections involving candidates (state initiative, bond elections, and state constitutional amendments are not covered by this decision tree, but there will be a section at the end about such things.).

Allow me to explain. There are very few elections where your vote will actually determine the winner. In my 30+ years of voting, I have had the privilege of voting in one such election. In the end that election was determined by a coin flip. Yes, a coin flip, because after counting and recounting the two candidates had exactly the same number of votes. So for those of you who do not really follow campaigns and the political process, your first decision point will be a “No.”

I grew up in Louisiana where the state motto was “Vote early. Vote often.” Louisiana also has some, shall we say, colorful characters involved in the political process. Nicknames on the ballot are commonplace. This is probably true because so many people are known by most people by their nickname. I think nicknames are fun, they exhibit a little “common man” humility to the ballot, and in locales where nicknames on the ballot are not common, the candidate has little chance of winning (remember, you’ve already determined your vote will not impact the result of the election). If multiple candidates in a race have nicknames on the ballot, pick the one with the best nickname. I once voted for a candidate for US Senate whose nickname on the ballot was Spicy Brown, for example.

No nicknames in a race? Do you know one of the candidates in a race personally? My decision tree says vote for that person, but with the following caveat. Let’s say your friend is prone to making self-destructive decisions for their life. Contributing to their ascension to public office may actually be damaging for them. Politics is a dirty game, so their opponents may try to damage their standing in the community, possibly entrap them in an embarrassing or even illegal situation. If your friend is not up to the challenge, it might be in their best interest to lose in the election. So vote what’s in the best interest for your friend.

Finally, if you do not believe your vote will actually impact the result of an election AND you do not know anyone that is a candidate in that election, just don’t vote. You are more likely to do harm to your community, your own well-being and the well-being of your family, friends and neighbors by making an uninformed decision. But if you still feel compelled to vote, my advice is to “do no harm” and vote for a third party candidate. They won’t win, but they will certainly appreciate your vote more than the candidates from the major parties.

A word on ballot initiatives and state constitutional amendments.

With these types of elections, the wording of the ballot initiative or constitutional amendment can be tricky. The use of double negatives to describe the initiative or amendment may lead you to vote in the exact opposite way you actually wanted to vote. For the uninformed voter, just don’t vote in these types of elections. The results are usually overwhelmingly lopsided, so your vote won’t change the outcome anyway.

A word on bond elections.

Bond elections are ways for the government to raise your taxes. Most of the time the taxes obligated to pay for these bonds is through the property tax. (Renters, a “Yes” vote will raise the taxes your landlord has to pay. That may mean an increase in rent, or delays in getting repairs and general maintenance on the property done.) Unless you are homeless or intentionally living in your vehicle (this could include an RV), if you vote “Yes” for any bond election, you are voting for the government to tax you more, even if they say the bonds won’t raise your taxes. Remember, these are politicians offering up bond elections. They are generally going to lie to get what they want. Even if they are not lying, they have come to believe the lie that others have told as the truth. To be fair, there are cases where a bond election may warrant a “Yes” vote, but be careful, because those liars politicians that put a legitimate need up for a bond election have probably also added a bunch of projects intended to reward their friends.