Opinion: Do we vote like we shoot?

Early last week, on a remote forest service road east of Yellowstone Park, my camping party came across a family who observed two moose about 200 yards distant. The group placed their guns on fence posts and began energetically shooting. One of the moose was hit, staggered, but refused to fall.

My cousin and lifelong hunter approached the group and said, “If you walk back about 20 yards, the angle to the moose you hit is better; you can bring him down.”

Hostility greeted his overture. What surprised us was the seeming lack of interest in the help offered. Poor aim and an unwillingness to hear the words of another impaired the hunt’s effectiveness.

Sometimes we approach our politics in much the same way as did these hunters. We set forth our positions and blast away at our chosen target. Even when shifting our position or viewpoint would give us a better perspective, we hold to our initial strategy.

Next Tuesday’s nonpartisan elections offer a chance for voters to do what these hunters could not: step back, independently evaluate candidates and make decisions. We may decide for ourselves who most closely represents our values based on what they say, not by which party flag they wave. It takes more work, though. With nonpartisan elections, we cannot make assumptions based on affiliation. However, the payoff is worth the effort.

Municipal elections most directly influence the quality of our lives. Advocates for making city elections party-based claim that the absence of labels confuses people. They claim that without a stated affiliation, the voter has no basis for making a choice. We are better than that. It takes little time and a bit of searching to learn about our candidates.

We face significant issues in this community. Explosive growth clogs streets with traffic. How do we reduce congestion? We lack public transportation. How do we serve those who do not own a car? Housing prices block access to homeownership or an affordable apartment. How do we encourage multi-use zoning and development? Where do we locate a new water tower? These issues will challenge our local government over the next year. Who we elect determines how the debate occurs and the quality of resulting decisions.

We have the power in Tuesday’s election to choose voices who represent our values and interests. What is your plan to vote? Do you know where your polling place is located? Have you put the election on your calendar? If you cannot vote on Tuesday, will you vote early? Early voting ends today (Friday). Your choice matters. Be the kind of voter who listens, asks questions and adapts perspective to find the best outcome.