The election deadline nears. We must determine who we will vote for to lead this country for the next four years. Unlike years in the past, the decision requires voters to question their previous alliances and values and choose American principles that have guided our democratic republic for over 250 years. This year, voters must dig down deep in themselves and ask hard questions: Does the vote protect American principles of democracy? Does the vote align itself with the United States Constitution’s role as the guiding principle of law? Neither of these questions concern party – these questions concern principle. This year, I vote on principle.

I am a product of the 1960s and 1970s with a keen interest in Soviet-era government and politics because I had excellent teachers in high school who encouraged our discussion and critical thinking on these subjects. I have read about it, studied it, and even visited the former Soviet Union. I thank the late greats Milt Coffman and Carolyn Garman who encouraged students to challenge status quo and quest for answers that did not align with the principles of America’s democratic republic: not limited to but including honesty, respect, and service to others. One thing Ms. Garman taught me for sure – the difference between a democracy and a Soviet state: voting for principle over voting for party.

It was different in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s in Soviet Russia. Soviets were forced to vote for party – much like Russians are today under Putin’s regime. That’s why the election results were always so skewed. Ms. Garman always told us such results meant that there was coercion of vote – people were forced to vote for party over principle. Are we as Americans blindly going in that direction?

This year – after voting for Ronald Regan twice and the Bush family four times – I vote for principle. My ancestors did not come to this valley to vote for party. I learned very early that my ancestors came to this valley to be free of tyranny and forced alliances. They came here to stand on principle. Like them, I was taught that principles guide my life – my morality, my judgments, and my decency. Now, more than ever, American principles should guide my vote.

So when you go to the polls this month, next month or even in November – ask yourself: are you voting for honest democratic principles? Or are you voting strictly for party? Is this an election that leans toward Soviet ideals? Or is this a democratic election where people vote on principle? Are these principles grounded in the faith of our forefathers, on the values of our valley, and in the beliefs and attitudes of our ancestors?

I will vote on principle. When I leave this place, I will know I have not sold my soul to the devil and voted for party.

Lisa G. Currie, a Woodstock native, is a long-time resident and community member of Toms Brook and has been active in politics for over 30 years.