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My Turn: Voters need to do their homework

By Donald C. Tracy
Now that the local elections are over, it is time to get back to the elections that started four years ago, which means it is time to make sure you have the credentials to vote. It is also time to pick your way through the minefields of propaganda so you are informed and can be proud of your vote.
First is the voting. You may need voter identification, as the state Legislature left the bill on voter ID in limbo after it was vetoed by Gov. Beverly Perdue. While I am in favor of voter ID, it would be a shame if last-minute politics disenfranchised anyone from voting. The scene is set for a real mess if ID legislation should get passed at the last minute. Budget cuts have already hurt the people who run the polling places, and the DMV, where identification cards would be issued. It is not likely that Governor Perdue will do as Governor Walker of Wisconsin did: Wisconsin passed an ID law, closed a bunch of licensing/ID offices and told the remaining offices they were not to inform residents that an ID could legally be had for free. Instead, applicants unaware of the free card would have to pay $28, not unlike a poll tax. Get your ID now and avoid a possible rush.
The next thing to deal with, of course, is the minefield of propaganda, ads and just plain gossip. We live in an age with more TV stations than we need, constant communication with cell phones, the Internet and big spenders willing to commit wads of money for their particular ěcause.î (The Koch brothers have pledged $200 million to make President Obama a one-term president, and Karl Rove has big bucks to put out TV ads by the bucketloads. He says that money is from political action committees.) Sorting out the truth is more difficult than ever because there is so much garbage. Fortunately, the Internet, which produces much of the junk, is also a source to find out the truth on a lot of issues.
For instance, I recently was told with positive assurance that the new health-care bill (which has been a prime target for every slingshot in the country) has a clause that exempts all Muslims from paying into the program, supposedly because they donít use hospitals or doctors. That sounds spurious to me, as all the bombings and strife in the Middle East show ambulances, hospitals and doctors trying to patch up the wounded. Time to look it up on the Internet. I happened to use www.snopes.com, one of several fact-finding sources. While it did state an opinion on the subject, there was also a quote from the original document so I could make up my own mind. You should do the same.
Lately, I have seen some bad-mouthing of these sites. Critics contend they are supposedly inspired by one side or the other and are not neutral. That has been debunked by most of the sites. They all cite sources if you want to do you own research. Besides Snopes.com, there is Politifact.com, FactCheck.org, Wikipedia.com, TheStraightDope, TheSkepticísDictionary, MythBusters and others.
Truly, the democratic process is messy, but it is still the best system devised so far, and we have only ourselves to blame if we goof. Please follow the proceedings, and vote, intelligently.

Donald C. Tracy lives in Salisbury.
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ěMy Turnî columns should be between 500 and 700 words. E-mail submissions are preferred. Send to cverner@salisburypost.com with ěMy Turnî in the subject line. Include name, address, phone number and a digital photo of yourself if possible.

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