How to vote wisely


In a moment I am going to name the candidates for which you should vote on Election Day, but first, I am going to discuss my decision-making criteria.

Keep in mind Nov. 5 is the big day, but that you can vote early by obtaining an absentee ballot or through walk-in voting. Remember you must be registered. Refer all voting questions to the Delaware County Board of Elections.

My qualifications to advise you are:

— I have been voting since I turned 21, and I have rarely missed an election.

— I have been a candidate for office several times, losing more often than winning. I was elected to a public board of education on five occasions, serving 20 years.

— I have passed numerous petitions for myself and others, and I have signed hundreds of petitions.

— I have campaigned for many candidates who have won and for many who have lost, probably more of the latter than the former.

— I have seen many candidates whom I thought would serve in office successfully win and serve successfully.

— I have seen many I thought would be poor officeholders win and serve successfully.

— I have seen many I considered inferior candidates become poor officeholders.

— I have been involved in and paying attention to government and politics for more than five decades.

In 2019, we will have what is called an off-year, or odd year election. Most of the offices on the ballot are for local communities and school districts, and nearly all of them are non-partisan, that is the candidates will not carry a party designation, such as Republican or Democrat, on the ballot. These positions do not pass laws or make executive rulings, but rather oversee and supervise public employees who provide important public services at the local level.

In contrast, even-year elections, such as 2020, will feature county, legislative, statewide and the presidency where a party designation will accompany nearly every name except judicial. Many of these are powerful positions carry the power to make laws and executive decisions at the county, state and national levels.

Here are the qualities I advise you should look for in judging a candidate for public office this year:

First, party labels are unimportant and should be largely ignored in local races. National political philosophy has little to do with zoning decisions, paving roads, traffic, building schools and hiring teachers, etc.

Second, integrity, trust and truthfulness are paramount. Support candidates who will put the needs of the public first and do not have axes to grind or friends to reward. A candidate receiving large amounts of money from a local developer may be tempted to do favors for the developer that would not be in the neighbors’ interest. A candidate who campaigned one way on an issue and behaved another way in office should not be re-elected in most circumstances.

Third, potential conflicts of interest between the candidate and his employer and-or profession should be considered. For instance, a candidate for board of education who teaches in a neighboring district might be seen skeptically. However, if a candidate for re-election to the board who is teaching in a neighboring district, but has shown herself to be free of bias, then a vote in favor would be warranted.

Fourth, candidates with broad social contacts and those who show a willingness to listen to all members of the community and those who have behaved open-mindedly while in office should earn your vote.

Fifth, candidates who wage a vigorous campaign by knocking on doors and attending public events, who place yard signs in legal locations, who advertising tastefully and avoid being excessively negative about their opponents should be rewarded by voters for their effort. Conversely, candidates who campaign negatively and minimally and say things like “everybody knows me so I don’t need to campaign,” should not earn your vote.

Sixth, candidates for re-election who have done a reasonably good to very good job ordinarily should be returned to office even if you do not agree with all their actions because experience in public office is very important to successfully leading our cities, villages, townships and school districts.

Seventh, candidates for re-election who do not understand that they are overseers not executives or administrators and who engage in excessive micromanaging should be voted out. And officeholders who spend excessive amounts of taxpayers’ money on legal fees when they try to fire employees who will not do their bidding and spend wildly on unneeded consultants, mailed newsletters and other wastes of tax money should be defeated for re-election along with their surrogates.

Gather information from a variety of sources before deciding for whom to vote. Newspapers, television stations and news web sites are usually reliable. Social networks and websites can be useful but their trustworthiness may be in doubt. Word of mouth from friends and associates can be helpful, especially from those with knowledge about the candidates and the demands of the office.

It’s time to make my voting recommendations, but I have run out of space. It is better to do your own research and make your own decisions anyway.

By John K. Hartman

Guest columnist

A resident of Liberty Township since 2008, John K. Hartman is an emeritus professor of journalism at Central Michigan University and a member of the CMU Journalism Hall of Fame. He formerly served on the township board of zoning appeals and as an alternate on the township zoning board. He is a Democratic Party precinct committeeman. He was a member of the Bowling Green board of education from 1978-1997. He writes a monthly column for the Columbus Free Press.

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