Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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May 1, 2014

Lana Bellamy: Voting for beats voting against: 05/02/14

ASHLAND — Motivation strikes people in different ways. Either through positive or negative reinforcement, some people feel a greater push based on their personal reasoning.

But which is actually stronger?

Kentucky is notorious for low voter turnout. This year, according to the secretary of state, voter registration has increased from 3 million to 3.1 million, just ahead of this month’s primary elections.

Though there are many compelling local elections and a hot senate race, I have to ask what was the underlying incentive that lit a fire in Kentuckians this year?

As a guess, I would wager many people have chosen to use their voting power as a weapon. By that, I mean they plan to use their votes in May and November as a tool against whichever candidates they do not want to win.

But I hope I’m wrong.

I hope this is not the case because voting for something or someone you believe in is vastly more important than trying to either boot out an unpopular incumbent or wash out a competitor.

I understand that none of the candidates for any race will perfectly satisfy a particular person’s image of an ideal winner, but that is just the nature of politics. There is a certain balance candidates must maintain in the general election that blends together bipartisan principles. When that happens, very few people can say they completely align with one candidate or the other.

That is why voters need to sit down and decide what they want most out of those in office and vote for the candidates who most closely fit this image.

Using votes as a weapon against a candidate you dislike can create problems on several different levels.

First, it can cause you to inadvertently vote for a candidate you know nothing about. In local races especially, it is difficult to sometimes get a good, informed image of each candidate.

Therefore, if you end up just marking a random name “because anyone is better than John Doe,” a completely unqualified, uneducated and unexperienced candidate could be one step closer to making big decisions in your government.

Second, it gives the power of voting a bad reputation. Voting is a privilege too many people in the U.S. take for granted. Using votes against each other just fuels community hatred and inspires ill will.

For these reasons, it is more important than ever to become an informed voter before elections. With today’s technology, it is easier than ever to look at a candidate’s website, Google search platforms or even pick up a newspaper and read candidate previews. (See what I did there?)

Being informed is the only way you can be sure to vote in someone you adherently believe will be the best leader for your community.

This election season, let’s use our votes to raise up leaders we believe in, not as weapons to shoot down the opponents.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.

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