Koutoulas: Don’t be a sellout. Vote

I once knew a man who espoused an odd stance on voting. He lived in a town in eastern Kentucky where, during his formative years, the practice of vote-buying was rampant.

Now I had heard it was possible to sell one’s vote for $5 or $10 — or a pint of whiskey —  although no one had ever made such an offer to me personally.

I had assumed anyone willing to sell their vote for a few dollars or a drink would be ashamed of that fact. But this particular man had a different take on it. He said to me, “It’s my vote, after all. It belongs to me. If I choose to sell it to the highest bidder, that’s my prerogative!”

Repugnant as that idea is to me, I’ve thought about it a lot over the years. An exchange of cash or commodity is the most naked form of bribery, but there are other ways in which one can virtually sell their vote to the highest bidder.

There is no question that money buys votes. You can’t run for a major office in this country without spending an obscene amount of cash. Most politicians now devote a considerable fraction of their time just raising money. It doesn’t always guarantee a win, but the best fundraisers tend to be the most successful on election day.

Most of that money gets spent on media buys. But unlike in days gone by, very little of that winds up supporting your local newspaper. The vast majority is spent on television and especially on Internet advertising.

If you pay attention to those ads, you know that most of them are simplistic, deceptive, even downright deceitful.

Let me say this plainly — if you rely on political advertising to make your decision, you are selling your vote to the best fundraiser.

Your vote is worth so much more than that!

In five days, Kentuckians will be going to the polls to decide who occupies the governor’s mansion for the next four years. There are also other significant statewide offices up for grabs.

I’m not going to tell you how to vote. You wouldn’t listen to me anyway, and I don’t blame you. But if you allow the noise of this advertising free-for-all to influence your vote, you might as well ask a random guy with an opinion column.

Remember, your right to choose your leaders was fought for — not freely given. Depending on your particular demographic, your franchise was won in a bloody revolutionary war, an even bloodier civil war, and/or the tireless efforts of the suffragettes.

So in honor of those brave soldiers on the battlefields and in the streets, I am asking you to do two things next Tuesday.

First of all, do your legwork. Tune out the political buying frenzy of the campaigns.

There are plenty of non-partisan sources of information about the candidates for office.

Use those sources to educate yourself about the candidates. Find the ones who align with your values.

The ones who can provide the leadership we desperately need. The ones who can move our great Commonwealth forward.

And once you’ve done that, get out on election day and exercise your right to vote. I’ve heard it said that it doesn’t matter who you vote for because either they’re all alike or there are no good choices.

They are most definitely not all alike. And there are always good choices. Maybe not ideal choices, but one is still a better choice than the other. If you stay home, you’ve given in to the system that seems to aim for less participation, rather than more.

If you fail to do either of those two things, you’ve effectively sold your vote.

Pete Koutoulas is an IT professional working in Lexington. He and his wife have resided in Winchester since 2015. Pete can be reached at pete@koutoulas.me or follow him on Twitter @PeteKoutoulas.