Editor column: Why I exercise my right not to vote
Ryan Summerlin March 19, 2014
With primary election season upon us in Nevada and California, it gives me the chance to share a view that I know is not popular among many people in this country.
I have been eligible to vote the past 12 years. How many times have I voted? Zero.
I know, I know. How can a newspaper editor, of all people — someone who’s granted the power to wield his opinion with reckless abandon by an industry that buys ink by the barrel (to bring back an old-school newspaper phrase) — not feel that voting is important?
Well, first of all, I do feel that exercising one’s right to vote is important. Democracy is a wonderful thing, and I always thank my lucky stars that this country was founded centuries ago on principles allowing people the right to choose (well, for most things that is…)
Regardless if you’re a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or any other party affiliate, it’s your right to choose sides and share opinions on why certain issues are good or bad. And I support that right.
But for me, I exercise the right to not vote, a right afforded to me in the same way the right to do so was granted in the 18th century.
When I decided a decade ago to become a journalist, part of the buy-in is one must understand and embrace the values of ethics. With that, I don’t feel a journalist can truly cover a news story (which is different than an opinion column) completely down the middle if one feels the need to choose sides behind a curtain.
A reporter or editor must be objective. Straight up.
The other reason why I don’t vote is I because I simply do not like politics. A politician, according to one definition, is “a schemer who tries to gain advantage in an organization in sly or underhanded ways.”
And that’s exactly what I feel many politicians do. They scheme by manipulating regular people by trying to convince them they are right.
Many of us try our hardest to talk a price down when dealing with a salesperson selling us a car. I know a lot of people who prefer to never even talk to salespeople, especially if they come knocking at their doors or randomly calling their cellphones.
But when it comes to a Democrat or Republican trying to sell us a plan to make America a better place, many will take the bait and swallow it.
I’m intelligent enough to understand the difference between a donkey and an elephant, but that knowledge doesn’t make me want to take sides.
We as Americans are the most diverse group of people in the world when it comes to our cockiness and varying convictions. That said, I feel there are much better things to do than to let men and women, who 99 percent of us will never see in person anyway, impact how we live by promising certain things.
My idea of an intriguing argument involves a debate on which team is the front-runner to take the bracket and win the 2014 NCAA tournament (by the way, my Final Four pick this year is Florida, Michigan State, Baylor and Louisville, with Sparty beating the Cardinals in the final).
My opinion might be labeled as childish by some, but in turn, I feel it’s immature to argue for or against people who spend half their lives debating things that have absolutely no effect on the betterment of America.
Now, I will not sit here and write like a hypocrite. It was only a few columns ago that I made it clear my stance on “adjective” marriage — long story short, any and all marriages and partnerships are fine with me.
A critic might say, “well how can this buffoon admit to not vote, but then spend more opinion space promoting gay marriage? What right does he have to tell us his view?’
My response to criticism like that is simple: Why in the world is a stance on gay marriage (or abortion or countless other “issues”) something that makes one person worth voting for over another? I just don’t see how that is “politics.”
Mandatory health care, spending money on national defense, taxes, etc. — yes, these are political issues. But in the end, I am just not compelled enough to use my energy to choose sides by voting one way or the other.
What makes my view more passionate is when people agree or disagree with the politicians, especially about the petty things, and flood social media outlets with bizarre statements and borderline hateful speech. Political smear campaigns and dreadful television advertisements are very ugly to me, and it all boils down to a societal black eye that I don’t enjoy.
I have the right to choose to vote, just like I do to be a vegan or an omnivore, or to use cuss words in public. It’s a choice I make, and I feel it’s important that we respect others’ choices as much as we respect our own.
So, if you want to sway me, pull up a chair and let’s fill out a bracket and talk basketball.
Only I won’t be rooting for the Donkeys or the Elephants.
Kevin MacMillan is managing editor of the Sierra Sun and North Lake Tahoe Bonanza newspapers; he may be reached for comment at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin1MacMillan.