Voting: Is it a right or a privilege? The architects of our Constitution appear to have considered it a right, and an important one- the right to vote is mentioned more frequently than any other, even the right to free speech or a free press.

But our military, charged with protecting that and other rights, might well deem it a privilege, possibly even a sacred duty. My Uncle Pete, a veteran of World War II, certainly did. In 2014-at the age of 99!-he was the oldest citizen to vote in Grandville, Michigan. The local paper interviewed him (along with the youngest voter, who had turned 18 just days before the election). When asked why, at his advanced age, he took the trouble to vote, he said it was still his country and he had a responsibility to make sure it was in good hands. I happen to agree with that statement; we have an obligation to cast informed, reasoned votes.

With Election Day coming up on Tuesday, one of the items on my personal to-do list is to do my homework and read up on the ballot questions. If it's on your list, too, I'll offer the Cliff Notes version here.

Ballot Question #1 concerns the staffing levels for nurses at hospitals and certain other health care facilities. A Yes vote would mandate set ratios of nurses to patients. A No vote would maintain the status quo. This question has gotten a LOT of airtime, with nurses pointing out that they are severely overworked and often unable to maintain the level of care they want to and should provide, and hospital administrators painting a gloomy picture of facility closure and turning away patients. I'd say it comes down to who you believe-the nurses or the management.

Ballot Question #2 seeks to create a citizen's commission (unpaid, so $ are not the point here) to investigate and possibly recommend a constitutional amendment stating that corporations are not people, and so do not have the right to support political campaigns. This is clearly a response to the Citizens United decision, probably one of the most reviled Supreme Court rulings in recent history. A Yes vote would create the commission, a No vote would not create it. This one depends on whether you view corporate support of elections as dangerous (uncomfortable fact: the vast majority of super PAC funding comes not from corporations but from wealthy individuals). But it's also a non-binding, volunteer commission-is studying an issue ever really wrong?

Ballot Question #3 concerns gender identity and whether it should be given the same protection as race, gender, religious creed, etc, in places of public accommodation. Places of public accommodation in this case are defined as hotels, stores, theaters, restaurants, sports facilities, and hospitals. A Yes vote on this question would require these places to allow patrons to access whichever rest room conforms with their personal gender identity and to refrain from using advertising or signage that discriminates on the basis of gender identity. A No vote would not create this requirement. While I support the right of any individual to use any bathroom he or she chooses, the language in this ballot question worries me. Will it require thousands of small business owners to change their bathroom signs? And to what? Honestly, can't we just make all rest rooms unisex and stop spending valuable time and money arguing about bathrooms?

What do you think? And more importantly, which of our local candidates are you excited to support at the polls on Tuesday? Who do you see around your town and region? Who can you depend on for information and support? Who do feel represents YOU and your concerns?

I'll be at the voting booth early Tuesday morning, before opening the store at 10. Stop by on your way home from the polls, tell us you voted, and we'll give you 10%* off your order. Please VOTE.
* 10% off any full price items. Does not include the Bargain Boat, previous sales, or online specials.