Voting: Being informed is a vital step of the process

It is too easy these days to pretend to be involved in the political process — in your community, your county, state or country — because you let your opinion be known. Particularly for the generations growing up having never known a time before social media, it can be a dangerous delusion.

But here in the Mid-Ohio Valley, our educators are doing their best to teach kids how to make a real difference. Williamstown High School civics teacher Conrad Blackburn taught his students well, then organized a voter registration campaign that led to the school receiving the Jennings Randolph Award for having 100 percent of eligible students registered to vote.

That is wonderful news, but it is only the first step.

As West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner noted, during his presentation of the award to the school, true involvement in the political process involves using that registration to go out and vote. Deeper involvement can mean becoming part of an individual campaign, or even choosing to run for office.

There is, however, one step to be taken between registration and voting. That is becoming informed. Seeking out the necessary FACTS to make a good decision in casting your vote. A social media meme — no matter how much you think it supports an opinion you already had — is not something on which such a decision should be based. In fact, one could argue, the harsher the meme, the more necessary to do a little research and fact-checking.

And, should you find all the zingers you scroll past are lining up with your own opinions rather neatly, it simply means that social media platform’s algorithms have put you in an echo chamber and it is time to do a little work to find the rest of the story.

Be responsible with the power you wield in your vote, ladies and gentlemen — and I am not simply talking to the young people at Williamstown High School. We all need to be more savvy about the ways in which curated social media feeds warp our opinions and lead us to extremes.

So congratulations to Williamstown High School and its voting-eligible students. Exercise your new right wisely.

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