Elections are a curious beast, are they not?

Each year the public gets excited and worked up about candidates, their qualifications and vision. From the local level all the way up to the federal government, the state of affairs are a hot topic. The most intriguing aspect, however, might be the electorate’s understanding of the details – or lack thereof.

This is not specific to local activities. The misunderstanding ranges from what funds can be used to fill potholes all the way up to what powers are or are not reserved for the federal government, including the authority of the executive branch.

To make matters worse, campaign tactics in recent cycles have been less than forthcoming and genuine – on both sides of the aisle. It's no wonder that the voting public is in such frenzy each cycle. With all the misinformation flying around how is one supposed to know what to think?

We could start by caring about the issues more often than just at election time. That's how.

The campaign rhetoric invariably muddies the water. In order to have a full understanding and firm grasp of the issues at hand we should all be doing our homework and staying informed, all the time.

Don't rely on the stump speeches and sound bytes that get all of the play as Election Day nears.

Find a good source of trustworthy journalism–there is plenty of it out there–and read the coverage when everything seems mundane, as it's probably not.

Study the candidates. Ask questions. Show up to meetings and see what happens firsthand.

Arm yourself with adequate information to make an informed decision.

Don't agree with something under consideration by the county government?

You have a voice.

Think your representatives in Montgomery and Washington are out of touch or leaving your best interests behind?

You have a voice.

Would you prefer the suits on the House floor care more about the board room or the classroom?

You have a voice.

Believe that this nation's role on the world stage should be contracted or expanded?

Again, you have a voice.

You have a voice, but no one can hear it if you do not vote. You can't be heard if you don't do the homework and show up to the polls.

And after you vote, don't turn it off until the next election. Keep studying those in power that are given the privilege to represent you and your interests. Be active in the discussions that shape your local community, state and national governments.

Educated discussion, civil discourse, is the most powerful and persuasive means to guide those whom you've chosen to be your voice after Election Day.

This tool has become dormant in recent history, as we as a society have retreated to our camps and decry anything to which we disagree with a knee-jerk slogan – refusing to even discuss many issues.

Being able to talk to one another and explore a disagreement without rhetoric or shouting is a tool we should take down off the shelf and knock the dust off of.

Today and after Election Day, we should find a way to utilize that tool regularly.

If you do nothing else Tuesday, please go vote. Vote in your pajamas, in your coveralls on the way to the deer stand or in your sweats on your way to the gym. Just vote.

Go vote. Then, stay informed and involved.

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