Officials should vote their consciences: Leader Editorial

If there’s one thing we want all of our elected officials to do all the time, it’s vote their conscience.

None of this go-along-to-get-along nonsense.

None of this board-unity rubbish.

It’s truly appalling the number of times officials vote one way when they feel another simply because they believe – or have been told – that it’s good for boards to approve everything unanimously.

Balderdash!

There’s nothing good about that.

In fact, the idea is profoundly un-American.

Our government functions on the principle of majority rule, not unanimity. The most votes wins – that’s the way we operate. We all don’t have to agree in order for things to get done. There is room for dissent. And why shouldn’t there be?

This land was originally populated by dissenters who crossed a vast ocean and settled in an untamed, unknown wilderness to escape persecution from an oppressive establishment and enjoy the freedom to practice their religion.

If it wasn’t for our forefathers’ courage to protest against the infringement of their rights as Englishmen and outright revolt against the tyranny of the British Crown, there would be no United States of America today.

That’s why it’s so distressing to us to think of public officials, freely elected to their positions by we the people, wasting the precious votes with which we have entrusted them.

We elect people to office to represent us.

And we elect them – or at least we should – based on their views, their experience, their integrity and their acumen.

As the great Irish statesman Edmund Burke observed in 1774, “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment.”

We elect officials because we believe they will use their wisdom, do their homework, consult their constituents and exercise sound judgment when making decisions on our behalf.

Every vote they cast should reflect what they truly believe in their heart of hearts to be in the best interest of their constituents.

Sometimes that vote will be disagreeable to some or many of the people they represent and that’s okay, too, because an elected official is not required to agree with all of the people he or she represents.

Again, we point to Burke’s wisdom – “To deliver an opinion, is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear; and which he ought always most seriously to consider. But authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience – these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution.”

Every vote an elected official takes should be an honest one. They should be true to themselves and true to us.

Even if an official believes he or she will end up on the losing side based on the discussion around the table or the debate on the floor, they should stick to their guns and vote their conscience.

To our elected officials we say this – it doesn’t matter how the rest of the board or body is going to vote, it only matters how you are going to vote. You’re not there to please your fellow officials. You’re not there to perpetuate sham unity. You’re there to make real decisions. You’re there to cast honest votes.

A vote on the losing side is not a wasted vote.

A vote cast simply to make the decision unanimous or worse, be on the winning side is a wasted vote.

A split decision is not a bad decision. It’s reality. It’s life.

A decision made unanimous by false votes is a shameful lie and should have no place in our government at any level.

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