Friday, 18 November 2011 00:00
Every election we are inundated with political mail, television advertisements, emails and worst of all political signs. Candidates try to build name recognition amidst a sea of signs. We have their names, the offices they seek and in some cases, their pretty faces. On this basis alone, they expect us to vote for them and we do. How stupid are we?
The extent of our knowledge about candidates may consist of our review of a voters’ guide, listening to the few debates that are available and voting with our feet. Sometimes we receive “Do Me a Favor” notes from friends who ask us to do them a favor by voting for their candidate. None of this is designed to tell us about the real qualifications that anyone has in running for a particular elective office.
All of this becomes particularly bad when we are voting for candidates for judicial office. We do not have merit selection or retention elections so we have more voting with our feet. Bar Associations screen candidates in private sessions not open to the public or even the legal community. They pick and choose who will testify for and against such candidates. Their criterion for determining who is qualified is not known and the members of those committees also vote with their feet.
So we are electing people in a democratic process with little to no information. Voting then becomes more like a game of chance or Russian roulette. All of this leads to one inescapable conclusion – we need less advertising and more actual information about the candidates, not just pedigree information but what they have decided, what they have done, their philosophy of life and public service.
Party labels tell us little more about candidates than the labels themselves. But what gave a candidate a particular party label or nomination becomes far more important. What did they do to get it? Did they buy it? Did they work in the political vineyards or raise money for others? Is it just payback time?
When people ask that you “Do Me a Favor,” you are trusting in their judgment or knowledge of a candidate. But is it any better than your own or what you might find out with more investigation? It is up to us to be informed about those for whom we are voting. The political process itself will not alone give us that information. Each of us has a civic responsibility to investigate and learn more about candidates before we vote for them. A mass of political signs and “Do Me a Favor” notes just do not cut the mustard.
Thomas F. Liotti
Village Justice, Westbury
Attorney, Garden City