Please don't vote: If TV ads are your election source, sit this one out

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Before most elections, the Post-Gazette makes a nonpartisan appeal for registered voters to go to the polls and exercise perhaps the most sacred right of American citizenship.

Nothing has happened to change our view that voting is a basic duty, but this year we are moved to go beyond the standard, wholesome civics lesson and suggest something radically different, something often thought in private but rarely expressed in public:

Some people would do us all a favor by not voting.

What inspires this thought is what we've just seen in Pennsylvania. Last week the state's voters, who had been spared the full weight of TV advertising, started to be bombarded with political ads supporting Republican challenger Mitt Romney or the Democratic incumbent, Barack Obama.

This reflects the late recognition by the campaigns that the race has tightened here and the winner can't be assumed anymore. Despite leaning toward the Democrats, Pennsylvania is still in play.

The campaigns and their surrogates are buying these ads because they work. But with whom? Surely not voters who have followed politics for many months and are well-schooled on the issues. No, the campaigns are looking for those who will be moved primarily by emotion and not facts.

The ads purport to be factual, but they range from the merely misleading to the wildly inaccurate if not downright dishonest. All of them say only what helps their candidate and nothing else. Context, background and fair play have no place in these brief messages.

A voter would be crazy to take the word of these ads, and yet some do. It is those voters who need a different sort of urging: With rights come responsibilities and voters who know only what they see in political commercials do no favors to their nation.

Everybody who is registered should vote Tuesday -- everybody, ideally, whose knowledge exceeds 30 seconds of manufactured opinion on a TV screen. To those voters, we say that you have one day left for self-education. Because going to the polls is only half your duty. The other half is to learn and think before you vote.

opinion_editorials


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