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(November 4, 2002 // link)

Sometimes being an informed and responsible voter means leaving a box on the ballot blank. Voting should be an informed choice between candidates or issues. There is no requirement that voters make a choice between candidates who they donít know or donít like, and there is no requirement that you support or oppose an issue without understanding the consequences of its passage. Partial ballots do count.

This is particularly significant in the case of special ballot questions and initiatives. Such fundamental questions as whether or not to amend the State Constitution should not be made for political reasons. Thankfully most such initiatives have not historically been successful in New Hampshire because people donít generally vote in favor of such changes without understanding the consequences. There is also no straight ticket mechanism for addressing this type of question. Each voter must make a choice and therefore the initiative is more fairly considered.

The Straight ticket vote is as bad, or worse, than an uninformed vote. The straight ticket vote makes it easy for voters to elect and reelect candidates based on their party affiliation, rather than based on their stance on an issue or their record of previous service. It also makes it too easy for candidates to get elected without ever taking a position or explaining their stance on critical issues. The Straight ticket choice also removes the responsibility of informed citizenship from the process.

The city of Laconia has, over several terms, elected and re elected State Representatives and Senators who have not served the city well. Some have poor attendance records (Glenn Dewhurst 68% and Don Flanders 73% in 2001) and others have voting records that do not reflect the best interests of the city. We were certainly not well represented in the recent discussions regarding Robbie Mills Park funding and there is never any talk of pressing the cities agenda in Concord. In this regard, Jane Wood was the glairing exception. I often wondered if, with the exception of Jane, our delegation ever considered what the cities agenda ought to be in Concord, or how they could best represent all of their constituents.

Although the Robbie Mills bill was co-sponsored by Mr. Dewhurst (Fran Wendlebow was the sponsor) this was the only bill he put forward all term. Mr. Flanders did not sponsor any.

Each and every representative in our current delegation voted for the state wide property tax. This points to another reason to avoid the straight ticket. The Republican or Democratic party of today is not that of your parents or grandparents. If you pay attention to the message of individual candidates you may find that they have a lot in common with your views regardless of their party affiliation.

For the most part, the current State delegation was put into office because they were on the right side of ticket in a presidential election year. They had vigorous opposition in 2000 yet they were elected without showing up for a public forums or debates and without actively campaigning (with the exception of Ralph Rosen). The number of votes required to overcome the Republican straight ticket vote in Laconia alone is daunting to any candidate and it should not be so.

Use your vote wisely. Donít vote the Straight ticket, the way your parents did or the way you always do. A vote is a terrible thing to waste.

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Copyright 2003 Edward Philpot

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