If you don’t know, don’t vote


AUSTIN, Texas — Voters of Texas, we need to talk. I’ll be blunt: What the heck are you doing?

This semi-rhetorical question stems from the March 4 primaries turnout. About 1.88 million votes were cast. We have 13.6 million registered voters. Clearly, we have a voter turnout problem.

Herewith, I shall argue that the problem is too many voters, not too few. I base this is on evidence that some voters have no idea for whom they’re voting. (This group doesn’t include daily newspaper readers, our most informed, best looking people.)

My fellow Americans, uninformed voting is not what the founding Americans had in mind.

Some primary stats: 12,352 Texans said Curt Cleaver should be the GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate seat now held by John Cornyn, who won the primary. You know about Cleaver, don’t you? No, you don’t. And there’s no way 12,352 voters knew anything about Cleaver, unless he’s got a really big family. But when it comes to the GOP Senate nomination, 12,352 Texans said leave it to Cleaver. (Sorry, that had to be done.)

On the Democratic side, 23,175 voters wanted Michael“Fjet” Fjetland as their U.S. Senate nominee. Maybe there’s a cohort of voters who gravitate to candidates with silent j’s (or maybe it’s silent f’s) in their names.

Hey, you got a better explanation?

For Dems, in-the-dark voting might be funny if not for the fact that it’s caused a potential problem atop their November ticket. Dallas dentist David Alameel is the party machinery’s favorite (assuming Texas Dems have a“party machinery”). Alameel ran first but is in a runoff with Kesha Rogers, who got 110,160 votes.

Alameel won’t beat Cornyn in November, but nominating him is now vital for Democrats. The alternative, Rogers, wants President Barack Obama impeached. So 110,160 Dems — 21.7 percent of the voters — said they want their November ticket topped by a woman who wants the Democratic president removed from office.

There are but two possibilities here: Lots of Texas Dems want Obama impeached. Lots of Texas Dems had no idea that Rogers wants Obama impeached.

The race for the Democratic nomination for agriculture commissioner also helped us see what voters didn’t know. Rancher Hugh Fitzsimons was backed by lieutenant governor candidate Leticia Van de Putte and other party leaders. He ran last and so is out of the runoff. First place went to Jim Hogan, who didn’t campaign and acknowledged that his common name was the best thing he had going for him — perhaps particularly among voters of a certain age who associate Hogans with heroes.

Jim Hogan, who did his campaigning on a Cleburne library computer, got 190,205 votes, or 38.8 percent. No way 190,205 voters knew anything about Hogan, who’s now in a runoff with Kinky Friedman, who got 37.7 percent. Friedman’s core issue — marijuana legalization — probably isn’t a topic Texas Dems want to focus on this year, so Hogan might be the party’s better choice.

(Fitzsimons didn’t help himself by getting on the ballot as Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III. Anybody with a III after their name sounds Republican.)

Today’s attempted point: Please don’t vote for people you know nothing about. Skip races in which those are the only kind of candidates.

Lots of voters skip races. About 546,000 Democrats voted in the gubernatorial primary, including 114,458 who voted for unknowable Ray Madrigal, who spent no money campaigning. But only 466,000 votes were cast in the Democratic Railroad Commission primary. (Quick, tell me who won that one.)

I got an appreciation for voter ignorance when I lived and voted in the Washington, D.C., area. I wasn’t as informed as I wanted to be about local races up there. I did the right thing and skipped contests I felt ill-equipped to weigh in on.

This was defensive voting, driven by fear of finding out I had backed a candidate who favored fetal voting rights and unification of the Dakotas.

So here’s the hierarchy of voters, best to worst:

1. Informed voters who cast informed ballots.

2. People who don’t vote.

3. Uninformed voters who cast uninformed ballots.

I beseech you to be in one of the top two categories. Our nation depends on it.

Ken Herman is a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman.

© 2014 Cox Newspapers

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