Sunday, March 28, 2010

Universal suffrage: how is it working where YOU live?

Should people who are so uneducated and parochial that they are incapable of understanding issues or broad ramifications still be allowed to vote?

If someone is not personally affected by an issue (such as apartment dwellers voting on a school bond issue that will be repaid only by property owners) still be allowed to vote on that issue as they are now?

If a county is made up mostly of an Indian reservation (containing thousands of people who do not pay taxes to that county) still be allowed to vote in county elections and, because they vote as a racial bloc, staff all county elected offices with only Indians, whose salaries are paid by the non-Indian taxpayers in the county?

People without real comprehension of the issues being voted on often tend to vote in special-interest blocs. This means they often vote for a candidate because of his race or other perceived identity with a voting bloc. Even voting for someone because they are a Republican seems to me to be rather sheep-like and counterproductive. People who vote in these various blocs, regardless of the candidate's abilities or agendas, seem to be subject to manipulation by those various special interest groups. Should a person be required to attend citizenship classes and demonstrate comprehension of the issues before he is allowed to vote?

Felons don't vote. Is this fair? The theory is that they don't measure up to the standards of citizenship. It occurs to me that certain other groups don't exactly measure up either, in terms of knowledge and fairness.

What say you?


  1. There is a now very-dated novel called "In the Wet" with an intersting idea on voting systems. It was probably one of the first grown-up books I read and that's why it has stuck in my mind. The idea was that everyone had a vote, but anyone could earn extra votes up to a maximum seven by certain criteria: having an education, having lived outside the country, having raised a child, and so on.

    Perhaps I read it at a very impressionable age, but it always seemed a very reasonable idea to me. All the same, the most important thing is for people to USE their votes. It hardly matters who does or doesn't have a vote if they aren't used.

  2. Even more importantly, anyone can have children. Sure, one must go through months of trial and inspection to foster children, but anybody can have a kid, and they do.

    One can be educated, even have three degrees, and yet still not know the candidates, not know the facts. The problem is that any limitation can be used to harm a group, in the same way that former slaves were kept from voting in the South because they had to pass a "literacy" test to vote.

    Sure, any schmo can vote. But what if I am that schmo?

  3. The criterion on raising a child had a further qualification. I think it was to raise the child to the age of 14 without divorcing, and that, of course, would probably exclude vast swathes of the electorate nowadays. The book was written in the 50s and wouldn't be considered politically correct now, in many ways.

    As Shakespeare says, the problem with either exclusion from voting or with awarding extra votes is that any system could be manipulated relatively easily.

  4. @A. - I had never thought of that idea (giving more "say" to "more qualified" voters) and I immediately liked the idea because it seemed to be better than taking away voting rights. Something doesn't ring quite right with it the more I think about it, though.,

  5. Anyone can indeed have children and a lot have shown they shouldn't have had children, because the children are often abandoned or abused and end up as wards of the state anyway. But SUCCESSFULLY raising a child seems to me should count for something - because it shows maturity and self-responsibility. These are qualities we would want in as many voters as possible, no?

    I have to admit something, though. The more I hash these things over in my mind, the less the idea of restricting voting rights seems like a good idea.

    I still haven't had my specific questions addressed, though.

  6. @Shakespeare - I sure don't want to go back to the days of literacy tests and poll taxes. But should every person be allowed to vote on anything and everything that is happening where he lives? I see room for voting "reform" without unfair curtailment. For example, on the tax issue, if you are not going to have to pay the tax for whatever reason (you don't own property, for example) should you still be allowed to vote that tax in? Here, I admit I am talking about elections other than public office elections.

    We already restrict voting. For example, I don't live in Nebraska, so I can't vote in Nebraska's elections. Why would it be wrong to go one more step and let only people who are affected (by a tax issue) vote on it?

  7. I hate "political correctness." It smacks of deceit and dishonesty. I have nothing against politeness and respect, though. To me, political correctness is too often simply an insulting condescendence to the very people you are making a show of respecting.

  8. @A. - Just how would it be easily manipulated?

  9. You don't like political correctness, or you don't like the phrase? Whichever it is, some details in the book would be found offensive by some nowadays. It's a long time since I read it so I can't remember all the details.

    One of the ways of earning another vote was to be a minister in the Christian church. That, don't you think, would now be thought both offensive and manipulative.

    I don't know how your voting works, but we don't vote on single issues, so excluding people from voting because they aren't property owners would exclude them from far more than just property tax issues. And would you exclude people who have no children of school age from voting on education?

    The way to manipulate? I believe the people who decide on the system could design the system, and probably would, to exclude voters of a different persuasion. To some extent they try it with local elections in the UK, by redrawing boundaries from time to time.

  10. The thing with restriciting peoples votes (or dispensing additional ones, which is the same thing, really) is that it is so easily abused that I cannot see how you could make it work.

    I agree with you in that the general public are idiots (to state it more strongly), and shouldn't be allowed to vote on things they don't understand. Only the thing is: who decides who is allowed to vote? Even if 90% of the voters are imbeciles that vote for the candidate with their preferred hair-colour, how do you find the intelligent 10%? How do you avoid the red-heads (it's always the redheads) infiltrating your 'panel of experts' or whatever mechanism you have for filtering your voters, and biasing it?
    You don't - and this is why everybody has to get to vote, apart from all other moral or ethical considerations.

    As for the issue of education - the British Empire was mainly run by the rich, educated elite. Quite successfully so, for a time. Still, I wouldn't have wanted to live then - except as one of the elite, of course ;)

  11. Heinlein, in Grumbles from the Grave (and possibly other things), proposed a radical notion about removing all restrictions on voting (including age) and just focusing on logical ability. In his opinion, math (no screaming, Shakespeare, it was just his opinion). A five year old who could solve a quadratic equation could vote. He also thought there should be penalties for trying to vote if you weren't qualified, like paying money to vote and getting it back if you passed the test, or, if you failed the test, a siren went off with flashing lights so you were embarrassed. Or, to give you a sense of his disdain for what he saw as stupid people, the booth could open and just be "empty".

    I don't think there's a single test or a single criteria.

    But, what if, instead of voting, we had some power over how our money was used. For example, what if, when you paid your individual taxes, you could designate percentages for different programs. That could limit the money spent on social programs (if that's what the taxpayers really wanted) or on defense (if that's what the taxpayers really wanted). Corporate taxes could not be designated so the government would still have some funds to use to fill in the holes as they saw it.

    Just a thought.

    Honestly, I've never heard (or made) any suggestion that, in my opinion, really solves the problem. The problem is educating the public well enough (critical thinking) to make them immune from easy manipulation. Til we can, slick will win over merit most of the time.

  12. I'm amazed and delighted to hear 'A' quoting from "In The Wet", which is a book by an author I really admire, Nevil Shute.
    He wrote it in post-WWII Britain, extrapolating a possible future from a present he believed was an era of mistakes.
    The narrator was set in the present day, but in Australia, he hears a fevered, dying man talking, in clear detail, of a world some thirty or so years into the future. Britain's socialist government of the early fifties has caused a state where industry and commerce, everything is subject to the whim of the uneducated masses, strikes and unrest abound, class warfare, the royal family has left, living in the commonwealth countries, Canada and the Antipodes, and we hear of mass emigrations.
    Australia's multiple vote system, as 'A' says, gives extra votes to people who have proved themselves in various ways. One she missed out, is a vote for having served in the armed forces,
    Shute believed that those Aussies who joined up, and went, voluntarily, to war far from home, were sufficiently broadened by the experience that their views deserved a little extra weight.
    Whilst I think it would be a difficult system to implement, I'm broadly for the concept, that an educated, travelled person, who has served their country in some way, is more likely to think, rationally, before voting than an uneducated couch-potato.

  13. Shute also wrote the most chilling view of the end of the world that I ever read, "On The Beach".
    An American submarine arrives in Australia.
    In the northern hemisphere, there has been an exchange of nuclear weapons. Those areas not directly hit have succumbed to fall-out.
    Gradually radio transmissions are falling silent.
    The fall out is heading south. The end is coming. How do we prepare, how do we live, knowing our inescapable fate?

  14. @A. - I don't like political correctness if it means being nice in a fake way when you don't really feel what you are saying. But I like honesty and courtesy. I think you mean the author of the old book was speaking his truth without caring if someone didn't like it.

    Why would being a minister in a Christian church not count for anything? Why would it be manipulative? You think a child rapist should get the same number of votes as a priest? Wait. Bad example.

    What do you mean you don't vote on single issues? What do you do then? - Just vote yes to all of the above?

    Gerrymandering, eh? Nothing new about that.

  15. @Boris Legradic - Identifying the idiots would be simple enough. Here, at least. Everyone who voted for Obama last election can't vote anymore, for anything. That would be one way.


    But seriously, isn't that a good argument for awarding "bonus votes"? If you add an extra vote for someone who has more education, made it through college, whatever, then he would probably not fall in the ignorant group. He might still fall in the uniformed group. Maybe a newsperson would be more informed. And if he went to college, he would get 2 extra votes.

    Oh, crap, this is getting too complicated.

  16. "@Boris Legradic - Identifying the idiots would be simple enough. Here, at least. Everyone who voted for Obama last election can't vote anymore, for anything. That would be one way."

    But wouldn't one have to apply a similar prohibition to anyone who'd vote for a party which would see Sarah Palin as vice-presidential material?

  17. @Sourbriquet - I admit I don't understand that. Why would voting for Sarah Palin be dumb? Obama, I can understand and we've got the incredible debt and high unemployment to prove voting for him was dumb. But saying a vote for a smaller federal government is dumb, I just don't quite understand. The only thing dumb is that you would have had to vote for McCain in order to vote for her. I do concede that would have been dumb.

    @Stephanie Barr - I know that.

  18. I wish I could express how grieved I am by your comment here, RM. How I wish there was a rimshot after it.

    For both our sakes, I'm going to just pretend I never saw it.

  19. Stephanie, it sounded worse than I meant it. I only meant that I knew how you felt about Palin.

  20. Everytime I ask people to tell WHY Sarah Palin is the devil, nobody answers. I guess it is just part of the Liberal mystique.

    How about:

    •She is too inexperienced

    •She is too stupid

    •She is a commie sympathizer

    •She is a girl

    •She is a Republican

    The list goes on and on.

    Like Joey Biden is better.

  21. Or how about:

    • She is in favor of too many damn freedoms

    • The dumb bitch lowers taxes too much

    • Her voice is annoying

    • She hunts moose from helicopters

    • She doesn't trash talk the USA nearly enough

    So many more.

    She just CAN'T be worse than Joey "This is a fucking big deal" Biden. I am so proud of him.

    The only drawback is we'd have to have had McCain. I'll give you that one.

  22. God but I hate politics and politcians. Why do I always do this? Never again. If I EVER blog about politics again, my God strike Biden dumb.

    Let me rephrase that.

  23. Okay, Max:My antipathy toward Ms.Palin is nothing to do with your country's party-politics. I have no idea what the precepts behind either the republicans or the democrats, but I see that the battle by each side to naysay anything that the other supports is ultimately a waste of time and effort. I'm not saying Sarah Palin is the devil, I'm saying she appears to be stupid, dishonest, and inept. And that one of your political parties seemed to think this fitted her to be the stand-by for the leader of your nation. Absolutely nothing that I've seen by or about her convinces me that she's a fit person to be a mayor of a small town, let alone governor of the largest state.

    I know little or nothing about your Mr Biden, Palin gets far more global coverage. My feelings about her are not based on who her rivals are in your political parties, solely on how bizarre it is that she, as a person, could be seriously considered for high office.

    You seem to think high unemployment and debt is a result of voting for Obama. I'd say the conditions which caused the collapse of a great many american industries and financial institutions were in place long before Obama got anywhere near the oval office. How well were Detroit and heavy industry doing, say, five years ago?

    I think, as a nation, you'd be doing somewhat better if your previous presidents had been less keen on committing you to an unwinnable war in Iraq, and Afghanistan. The tax dollars that are going into myriad things that go bang, and into turning countless people into "colaterral damage", turning unknown strangers into enemies, turning young americans into flag-draped boxes, the money your previous administrations committed you into paying, via your taxes, would have paid for universal healthcare.

    Your country's reluctance to apply the same compassion within its own borders as it seems to think it applies to the business of freeing Iraquis from the tyrant's yoke, is hard for us outside observers to comprehend.
    Your patrols seek to pacify Baghdad and Kabul, whilst your own cities have enclaves where travellers are warned not to stray.

    Oh. and smaller federal government? oh yes, I'm all for that. Government bloat serves nobody well.



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