There's a moral conundrum; Is it better to vote in ignorance, or to hold your tongue?

The Associated Press (via the Rapid City Journal) reported today on a difference between Governor Rounds and his challenger, Jack Billion.

The Gov says if you aren't familiar with a measure, it's probably better to vote no. Jack Billion disagrees:

Gov. Mike Rounds says he will vote to raise tobacco taxes and keep video lottery, but he says people who don't understand issues that will be on the Nov. 7 ballot should vote against them.

Democratic challenger Jack Billion says he also will vote to increase tobacco taxes and keep video lottery, but he says it's bad advice to urge people to vote no on issues they may not understand


I (Rounds) just simply tell people, 'Look, if you don't have an opportunity to look at it, and if you don't have the opportunity to really study the issues, it's always better to just vote no than it is to go back in and take a chance and guess.'"

That's especially true with tax measures, Rounds said, because those issues have been carefully examined by the Legislature in many cases.

"If the Legislature rejects it, there must be a reason why it's rejected, and in a lot of cases, it's difficult to put a lot of that down in (a ballot) explanation," the governor said. "Unless they have a really personal, strong feeling on it and they feel very comfortable with it, it's better to simply vote no."

Billion said that's too simple an answer in a state that allows citizens to initiate and refer laws and that presumes voters will understand the issues.

"One might suggest that as an intelligent voter, we're supposed to study the issues and make our decisions. It seems to me that's how the system was set up," Billion said. "He seems to be saying it's all right to ignore issues, and that's a pretty simplistic response."
Read it all here in the Rapid City Journal.

Jack seems to be presuming a level of engagement in all voters that he demands of himself. And he couldn't be more out of touch. The Gov is saying, if you don't know, it's probably best to vote no. Jack is saying they're supposed to know without giving creedence to the possibility they might have no idea.

It's a long ballot this year. OF COURSE THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT UP ON ALL OF THE BALLOT MEASURES! Jeez. Even I'm not that pollyanish.

And I realize that no matter how much I want people to know about the evils of amendment E, there are going to be a ton of people who don't. Would Jack rather have them vote "yes?" Of course not.

To me, for those who are ignorant on the issues, the next best thing to voting No on the amendment measures would be to abstain. But, the rub is I (and most certainly they) wouldn't want to be disinfranchised because of ignorance. And then, we're left with a mental flip of the coin for those who didn't bother to learn.

So, who is right? Jack or Mike?


Anonymous said…
Neither one of them are right. If you don't understand what you are voting about, leave that one blank!
Anonymous said…
If I'm not sure, I'm inclined to vote yes. Some really passionate people went to a lot of work, and got a lot of signatures, and deserve some yes votes, not just a "vote no if you don't understand it". A lot of good measures have gone down over the years due to this negative attitude.
Anonymous said…
There is no way I would vote yes on something I knew nothing about or didn't understand. Just because people worked hard on it doesn't mean I would agree with it. Leaving it blank means people in the know can decide on it.
Nicholas Nemec said…
How about learning a little bit about the issue and becoming an educated voter.
johnnie w. said…
An ignorant vote on Medical Marijuana leaves people with debilitating conditions left to suffer.

Educate yourself on each issue!!

See more at
Haggs said…
I don't mind Rounds telling people to vote "no" if they don't understand it. But that's because there are several things (referred law 6, amendments c and e) that I don't want to pass.

Though I think it's always a good idea to take some time to learn about what you're voting on. Even if it's a couple hours before the election, you should know a little about it. Before I started regularly following politics, I used to study Project Vote Smart and other internet resources the night before the election.
Anonymous said…
I agree, leave it blank if you don't know anything about the issue or don't care. I'm sure some of the pro-life movement have got to be ticked at that statement by Gov. Rounds.
Joan said…
Good point, Nicholas and Haggs - This is something we can all agree on. Take time to study the issues before casting your vote!

If you don't do that and don't know about a person or an issue, skip over it and vote on the things about which you know.
An uninformed vote is worse than no vote at all.
lexrex said…
ditto joan. better not to vote. rounds' advice is irresponsible.
Anonymous said…
Amendment F is the one that no body seems to know what it is about. Does that mean voting No is a good thing?
Anonymous said…
The best information you can get about the amendments and measures on this year's ballot is at the South Dakota Secretary of State website.
In a lime green bar are these words: The Ballot Question pamphlet is now available! Click here to view.
This brings up a great pamphlet that explains everything you need to know about every proposed amendment in a balanced manner - both the pros and cons are spelled out.
If you think this pamphlet is helpful, please forward the website information to your online family and friends.

Know the facts before you vote.
Mrs. Ellis` said…
So ... The governor says vote no on the abortion bill, vote no on gay marriage, vote no repealing the cell phone tax, no on the JAIL bill, no on open meetings, no to tax chances on property ... no to changing legislator reimbursement ... no on changing school start rates ... no on medical marijuaua ... no on restricting his joyrides on the state plane, deo and no to repealing video lottery
Anonymous said…
Well, I don't want to make the governor happy, so I intend to
Just Vote NO!

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