Last minute election thoughts

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(Host) Tomorrow is Election Day, and commentator Traci Griffith has a few last minute thoughts on the political process.

(Griffith) During the last few weeks, I’ve felt like a little kid waiting for Santa Claus. Election Day 2004 seemed like it would never come. But it’s finally here, and hopefully within the next 24 hours we will know who the next leaders of our country will be.

This election season seemed to drag on and on. So many ads, so many polls, and so many websites, and each day they all seemed to say something different. We’ve learned about the wrong war at the wrong time and flip-flopping. Closer to home, we heard about capturing taxes and alleged violations of campaign finance rules. Locally we see dozens of signs in front yards, while candidates and their supporters wave at us from the shoulder of the road.

But does any of this tell us who can best run our country or state, or even our town? Should our elections be decided in the media or at the side of the road? For many busy citizens, who simply do not have the time to research and study the issues or the candidates, these political ads and drive-by salutations are the only information and only contact on which to base their choices. Unfortunately, neither the ads, the polls nor the signs tell the whole story.

How do you decide who to vote for? Many people simply vote by party. These voters may never know the individual candidates, where they stand on specific issues, or anything else about them, except party affiliation. But we all know that Democrats and Republicans vary, just as individuals do.

Some vote based on their contact with the candidates. Although the Presidential candidates haven’t visited Vermont, those swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania have seen an awful lot of John Kerry and George Bush. And it doesn’t hurt to bring along a few famous friends; the President has the Terminator on his side, while Senator Kerry has the Boss. A rally filled with 80 thousand screaming supporters has a way of making you believe. Maybe a candidate for state representative visited your neighborhood and chatted with you one Saturday morning. This type of personal contact often garners support.

Some voters make their choice based on the debates. The debates offer a chance to hear both national and local candidates speak about the issues important in the daily lives of voters. But is that enough information to decide who will lead the country, state or town?

This year, we are seeing record numbers of first-time voters and many returnees stepping into the ballot box. The difficulties during the 2000 Presidential election have prompted many people to exercise their Constitutional right in 2004.

It’s easy to be paralyzed by the many issues and factors that go into making up your mind to support one candidate over the other, but no matter why you are voting or who you are voting for, just vote. Our democracy depends on it.

I’m Traci Griffith from Williston.

Traci Griffith is a professor of journalism at Saint Michael’s College.

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