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Hamilton: Election 2016, don’t be myth-guided

Although voting is a key function of citizenship, to vote or not vote is all-too-often the subject of myth:

My one vote won’t make a difference. Wrong. In 1910, the election in a New York Congressional District was decided by just one vote. Here are some state-level House or Senate races decided by one vote: 1968, Wisconsin; 1970, Missouri and Rhode Island; 1978, Rhode Island (again) and North Dakota; 1980, New Mexico and Utah; 1982, Massachusetts and Maine.

I’ll only vote for a candidate who thinks just as I do: Wrong. Only you have your own unique set of views on the issues. If you do not have the ability to run for office yourself, then you must give that role to someone who will run. But some compromise will be necessary. Vote for the candidate you think has the strength of character to stand up for the issues on which you are in agreement and will help you get at least a portion of what you believe in translated into reality. A half loaf is better than no loaf at all.

Voting for a splinter-party candidate will make a difference: Wrong. If you want to throw your vote away, then that is exactly the way to do it. Some voters think they are sending a “message” to the two major parties by voting for splinter-party candidates. If former President Teddy Roosevelt couldn’t win on a third-party ticket, it probably won’t ever happen. By voting for a third-party candidate, you are probably helping elect someone you don’t like at all.

When my wife and I don’t agree, I must cancel her vote: Wrong. Couples don’t always agree on every candidate and every ballot issue. They should talk it out. Sometimes, minds are changed. When that isn’t possible, work out a deal where one mate gives in on some issues and the other mate gives in on other issues. Vote cancelling achieves nothing.

Term Limits provide needed turnover and I don’t need to vote. Wrong. The Law of Unintended Consequences is always at work and it has a role to play with term limits. In many jurisdictions, term limits have either never been imposed or have been lifted. But, given that both sides think the federal government is corrupt, the idea of congressional term limits may be making a comeback.

It is better to vote for the person and not a political party: Often, wrong. If you judge one candidate to be a bad person and judge the other as good, vote for the good person. But if there are no issues of character between two candidates, one should look to see which candidate’s party is the majority party. After all, the point of voting is to get some of your agenda enacted. If one has a choice between an experienced member of the majority party versus a novice of the minority party, a vote for the majority candidate usually offers the way to get your agenda made into law. So, often it is better to vote for the party rather than the individual.

Don’t be myth-guided. And be sure to vote before or on November 8, 2016.

Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame, and is a recipient of the University of Nebraska 2015 Alumni Achievement Award. He was educated at the University of Oklahoma, the Army Language School, the George Washington University, the U.S Naval War College, the University of Nebraska, and Harvard University.