WHEN VOTERS GO STUPID
On September 13, 1994, Tom Neuville had a bad day. An experienced lawyer, Neuville had represented Northfield as a State Senator since 1990. As the Republican endorsed candidate for Attorney General of Minnesota, he could expect to win the primary and go on to the challenge of campaigning for the November general election.
But he only got 34.5% of the vote that day. Sharon Anderson got 40% (148,000 votes) and went on to be the Republican nominee for attorney general.
Did the people who voted for Sharon Anderson know that she wasnít a lawyer? Did they know that she makes a habit of running for office year after year, never winning? Did they know that the local newspapers described her as utterly unqualified?
Did the people who voted for Sharon Anderson think she was a talk show host?
Yes, Good Company, a morning talk show in Minnesota, was hosted by a Sharon Anderson. But not the one running for attorney general.
This fact was made more clear by the time the general election came around. Sharon Anderson was soundly defeated by Hubert Humphrey III. (By the way, Sharon ran again this year for the Republican attorney general nomination and got 57,767 votes or 42%. Too much, but not enough to win.)
What possessed those primary voters to select Sharon Anderson?
We hear from a young age how important it is to vote. Voting is your civic duty. Itís your responsibility as a citizen. Itís your right, donít neglect it. And yet very little is said about voting responsibly. The little sticker you wear says ďI Voted,Ē not ďI Voted Carefully.Ē
When you think about it, itís hard to deny: itís worse to vote irresponsibly than to not vote at all. There is no excuse for voting for a candidate just because she is a womanĖor because you like her last nameĖor because her name is listed firstĖor just for the sake of voting.
Even though I try to pay attention, I have to admit: I have gone into the booth and become totally befuddled by the race for Soil and Water Supervisors. I wasnít prepared. I failed to learn about the candidates. It was too late to check these people out. I hate not to vote. What if I find out later that one of the candidates was accused of theft or some such thing? Iím there to vote! Itís now or never! Aaahhh!
What to do: Admit youíre not prepared. Donít vote on a race where you didnít do your homework. And promise not to let it happen again.
What can we do to help people prepare? How can we make it easy for the Voterís Pledge to be a reality?
One way is to mail a sample ballot to every household. Another is to have the sample ballots available on the web. To encourage that, I have created a website called VoterHomework.com. Check it out. Then take the Voterís Pledge!