Wait. Before you flip, just hear me out.
In 2006, a Southern California judge with 20 years’ experience on the bench was defeated at the ballot box by a bagel shop owner who had barely practiced law at all for 10 years prior. There were several factors involved, but the one observers kept coming back to: The sitting judge’s name was Dzintra Janavs and her opponent’s name was Lynn Diane Olson. And the theory that voters were taking stabs in the dark—voting with no more information than the foreign sound of Janavs’ name—seemed to reign among experts inside and outside the local judicial circles.
I’m sorry to say I used to cast similarly stupid votes. I would get into the ballot box and feel that I was SUPPOSED to know more about all these judges and bond measures and ballot propositions and school board officials. I felt guilty that I hadn’t done more homework. So I would take my best guess.
I don’t do that anymore. My position has changed. In fact, it’s a lot like my approach to grammar: To hell with “supposed to know.” To hell with trying to deny my own ignorance. To me, the only thing worse than being ignorant about something is being so ashamed of my ignorance that I try to hide it and thereby compound my stupidity.
It’s okay to not know who a judge candidate is, just as it’s okay not to know what a predicate nominative is. In a perfect world, I would take the initiative to learn it all. But in this here world, there are cats to be played with and “Simpsons” reruns to be watched and names to be Googled.
I’m a C+ citizen.
So, yes, I’ll be going to the polls on Tuesday. Yes, I’ll be casting a ballot for president and in congressional races and on about 80% of the ballot initiatives. But that’s it. I did a lot of homework, but not enough to have an educated opinion on every issue. A Pasadena, Calif., school bond measure I’m leaving blank. (I’m baffled as to why there was no organized opposition on that one.) A state measure to fund some public transportation projects I’m leaving blank. (Normally, I’m a fan of public transportation projects, but with the state’s and residents’ money situations as they are, I just don’t feel I can intelligently weigh the pros and cons.) And no way am I voting for or against any judicial candidates I’ve never heard of. If I wanted a voice in those matters, I should have done my homework.
So, yes, voting is patriotic—but only if I’ve done my homework first.