This November I voted for the first time in my life. I’ve studied the American political system multiple times throughout my school career, most in depth in this class, but this was my first time actually putting all of my knowledge into practice.
Oregon sends out ballots a few weeks before, so I got my and filled my out, and turned it in today. I voted on all the regular positions, like governor and senator, races which had very fleshed out fields of candidates. There were a few positions I wasn’t very aware of that I voted on as well, such as Water Management Board, and Judges . I voted for several positions where only one candidate was running, which I gather is not unusual. All of these positions have a write in option, but a Google search turned up no information about any candidates in the race, not even the one listed on the ballot. As a voter, I don’t know what to think about this. Should I vote for the incumbent? Writing in a name seems totally pointless, and there’s no real reason not to, so in most cases I found myself voting for the incumbent. There were some races with two candidates running that also vexed me. The Oregonian website sends out surveys to all candidates running in Oregon election, and some of the responses were really informing to me, and helped me decide who I was voting for. Some of them were considerably less revealing. Some candidates had short answers that amounted to yes or no answers to questions that require much more detail than that. More common was the candidate who simply didn’t respond to the survey. Those candidates often didn’t have a website, or any presence beyond the fact they were on the ballot.
Other than Candidates I also voted on Ballot initiatives. This election year has been a historic year for Ballot initiatives in Oregon. Previously on this blog my classmate has written about Measure 92, which would require GMO labeling, and some of the issues surrounding that. I have seen an incredible number of political ads about Measure 92, mostly negative, and its no wonder. The battle over this ballot measure is the 5th most expensive in the nation, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Which doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, because it doesn’t seem as important as either of the other ballot measures. Measure 90 would change the way Oregon does its primaries, and could potentially change what candidates are on the ballot for future elections. Measure 91 would legalize Marijuana for recreational use in Oregon. These are big issues, and I have seen absolutely zero advertising either for or against these measures.
So to summarize, my first experience voting was… somewhat positive, confusing and a little disheartening. I felt like I knew what I was doing for most things, but when I was confused I was very confused, and I didn’t know where to find good answers. I didn’t feel great about voting for candidates who didn’t seem to have made any attempts to reach out to voters, but I felt good about the level of knowledge I had about the rest of my decisions. Overall, I’m glad I got to vote in this election and exercise something I’ve studied all my life.