Study the issues and vote

It's easy to get disheartened, watching "Saturday Night Live" satires of the presidential contenders.

It's even more disheartening to learn that the candidates themselves watched "SNL" for pointers on how to polish their performances.

But what's most disheartening is that Tuesday's close election will be determined by the undecided voters — those least informed about foreign and domestic issues, and most influenced by candidates' personalities.

The late Steve Allen had a word for it: "Dumbth." And as People of the Book who pride ourselves on our ability to weigh issues intelligently, we are profoundly disturbed.

There are serious issues at stake Tuesday — the future of the Supreme Court, the environment, schools. A number of pundits believe the Jewish vote could make a difference in several key states.

In addition, Californians are facing eight statewide ballot measures, and residents of Berkeley and San Francisco face another 18. The state has published a 75-page voter information guide, and also offers a Web site at Some of the sample ballot pamphlets, which also include pros and cons on local measures, are 100 pages or more. It is not light reading.

There are critical issues on the California ballot, including Proposition 38, which would authorize state payments of at least $4,000 per pupil for private or religious schools; Proposition 36, which would require probation and drug treatment, rather than incarceration, for possession and use of illegal drugs; and Proposition 39, which would authorize a 55 percent local vote, rather than a two-thirds vote, on bonds to repair and replace school facilities.

Study the issues carefully. Get together with your friends to discuss them. And above all, vote Tuesday. Do not let the least-informed Americans determine the course of your town, your state and your country. The stakes are too important.