Should the right to vote be earned?

But what if somebody thinks that having a “white sounding” name, or nice hair or the right viewpoint on one issue is important? Why is your criteria for who to vote for good and those people’s bad?

Too often it seems like saying, “The right to vote should be earned”, carries the implication, “because then all those other idiots who vote the wrong way won’t be able to.”

As usual, I find an interesting topic and discover that What Exit? has already covered all the points I wanted to make. :mad:

I have no problem with instituting voting requirements, provided that they are fair and don’t discriminate against people other than for being too stupid to be allowed to vote. Just to toss some other methods out there for consideration…how about a voting machine tied into a computer that offers a quadratic equation to each voter? Solve it and the machine unlocks. No lower limit on the franchise in that case. Let a smart 12 year old vote and not her ignorant mother.

But the idea of some form of either National Service or productivity for the Good of Society should be a requirement to take part in the Democratic Process. I see absolutely no reason a drain on society should be allowed to vote.

I don’t favor any dilution of universal suffrage. In fact, I think that it should include those released from prison having served sentence (as opposed to parolees, who have not finished sentence).

But then, I think, hey, what about making it a requirement to earn the right to receive a vote?

Now there’s an idea that might deserve some thought.


Because I can’t fathom of a time when this is relevant to a politician’s ability to make decisions representing the best interests of his constituents. If you have one, I’m willing to change my mind.

Ditto. Plus, hair is fleeting. :wink:

I don’t care if people vote for the anti-abortion guy or the pro-abortion guy regardless of his stance on other issues. But I do care if they do so unknowingly. I’m a great fan of informed consent - if they don’t know what they’re asking for, are they really asking for it? Like a person taking phentermine for weight loss without informing himself of its addictive properties or increased risk of heart attack - it’s not really consent if it’s not informed. (And, by the way, I also support the idea of a person needing to take a short quiz on the main uses, side effects and adverse effect rates of their prescription drug before sale - but that’s another thread.)

They’re not, necessarily. But I haven’t heard any compelling arguments for better ones - yet.

I can see why you say that, but it’s not why I’m in favor of it. I don’t care if the gunslinging anti-abortion warmongers vote. But I want to rest assured that the gunslinging anti-abortion warmongering politicians are truly representative of their people. Then I can feel justified that we’re getting what we asked for and blame the people, not the process.

I’ll say the same thing I say when people here ask whether we’re better off encouraging “everyone” to vote or not: the thing that makes our system what it is is the fact that everyone (practically), even idiots, have a say in who is governing them.

How about this: The right to vote should be earned by having to live with the consequences. The point of letting people elect their own leaders is that they are governed by the people they selected to govern them. If you start putting requirements on voting, you get back into “taxation [and other governmental imposition] without representation,” where people, at least the “unworthy” ones, have their lives controlled by a government they had no say in selecting.

Perhaps so, but are you happy with the system?

If they want to have a say in selecting those leaders who control their lives, what’s to stop them from earning the right to do so? If they really care about the issues that affect their lives, shouldn’t they make at least a token effort?

It astonishes me that the views of an 78 year old semi-senile old man, incapable of calculating 10% of 100, and whose historical knowledge is restricted to footballers, should have the same say in electing people who get us into wars, as someone who is capable of understanding at least some of the issues.

People can be ignorant at any age. I’m 18, know very little about sports, and a great deal about politics.

Knowing how to solve a quadratic equation and knowing where the candidates stand have nothing to do with each other. Why should someone who’s bad at math be prevented from voting? Why should someone who doesn’t remember or never learned how to do that be penalized? What matters is political knowledge, nothing else.

It’s probably not relevant to that. But, what you’re saying comes with the assumption that the people who should be elected are those best able to “to make decisions representing the best interests of his constituents.” It’s fine that you believe that, but that’s an aristocratic value, not a democratic one. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong…there’s a lot to be said for aristocracy. But when you limit the franchise, when you say, “You can’t vote because you’re not voting for the most qualified candidate, but for some other reason.”, it’s anti-democratic.

Sure. The information is out there. If they choose not to research it, or let it impact their decision, it’s their choice

Well, you can blame the people anyway. They’re the ones who voted for gunslinging anti-abortion warmongers, either because they’re gunslinging anti-abortion warmongers themselves, or because they don’t care that they’re represented by gunslinging anti-abortion warmongers. Then it becomes the job of the disarming prolife peaceniks to convince the public both that their beliefs are right, and that people should care about those issues.

Then have a quiz pop up on the screen that has you match the candidate to their position on the issues. Or match name and picture to party and platform. The details can be worked out. The key is making people earn the right to vote by some other method than surviving 18 years and remembering to register.

Well, except for such segments of society as brewers & distillers, bartenders, waiters, DJs, caterers, chauffeurs, hookers & blackjack dealers…
Just because something’s altruistic doesn’t automatically mean it’s of greater benefit to society as a whole. All that “squandered” wealth has to go somewhere, and some of it goes into the pockets of people who need it the most.

To the OP - hell, no. Everyone who’s mentally competent deserves the vote (and even that’s a teeth-grinding concession from me - I see no reason to exclude anyone from the decision-making process ). Any other system is set up for abuse, as Verhoeven’s brilliant skewering of Heinlein’s misguided government plan showed quite well.

Interesting…and not quite true. Or maybe not quite complete. For I also said:

Yes, I want elected officials to represent their people. But yes, I acknowledge that a politician, who I am paying to read 835 page documents on ear wax, will have a better grasp of the issue of ear wax than I do. So I guess there is a level of “those in power should choose things for us”, but for me that’s only because I expect them to become more educated about the issues than you or I have the opportunity to become, what with having to work and all.

From what I understand, what we have now isn’t a strict “democracy”, but a republic - an attempt to reconcile those very two notions: we elect people to make decisions for us. Ideally, those people should be as much like the best-possibly-informed us as possible, or at least make their decisions as if they were.

silenus’ approach is what I’m advocating. Not “you can only vote if you can support your stance”, but “you can only vote if you can identify which candidate is for what.”

Fair enough. I’m sure there are better ways of determining one’s worth to society, mine was just one possible example.

Why? Why does someone “deserve” a say in how the country is run just because they have reached a certain age? If people have fought, bled and died for the right to vote, why should we automatically give that right to anyone, regardless of whether or not they even give a shit? Isn’t the right to vote worth more than that?

Thats the beauty of free speech. The smart folks can try to educate and convince the slower folks of their point of view. That doesn’t mean that the smart folks are more important and should have more say in a representative government than slower folks. I would imagine representative government stops being representative when you give more representation to certain populations.

What about issues? Budgets? If you want to start testing, why not mathematics since it’s so important in understanding the fundamental aspect of our government? If testing on math skills is discriminatory, so is a political IQ test.

People already have to earn their right to vote. They need to survive to age 18, register to vote, then show up at the polling place.

People didn’t fight, bleed and die for the right to vote though. They were able to vote ‘just because they reached a certain age’ just like everyone else. People who serve in our military volunteer last time I checked.

In so much as I feel enfranchised, yes. And, I feel that my neighbor is enfranchised as well. Thus, in my mind, our democracy “works.”

While I think that having some form of “earning” the right to vote isn’t a terribly bad idea, I have to disagree that mathematics would have anything to do with one’s ability to choose a good candidate. I probably couldn’t solve a quadratic equation to save my life and yet I managed to get a college degree and have handled the book keeping of multiple businesses. It’s a skill I used on a handful of tests several years ago and it has never been used again. I suspect something similar for many people.

A one time test, such as what immigrants must pass, which shows a basic understanding of the US political process seems like a much better idea than a quiz before every poll, of any type. To keep testing voters and making them jump through hoops is just far too similar to the Jim Crow days. Those eager to begin voting can study for the test, take it, and then promptly forget everything as we do with every other subject after school. :smiley:

Some sort of mandatory service to one’s country–the armed services, an office position, the Peace Corps, etc–doesn’t strike me as a particularly bad idea, but I wouldn’t link it to the right to vote.

Ideally, yes.

Actually, no.


See, it’s that that I’m disagreeing with. Ideally, I’m saying, the person who gets elected should be the one who gets the majority of people to vote for him. If he’s an idiot elected by ignorant people, then so be it. At least he’s a popular idiot.