Should voting be a right that is earned?

This was loosely inspired by talking to a friend who moved to Israel. One of the conditions of his becoming an Israeli citizen was that he had to spend time in the Israeli Army.

Voter turnout in this country can be light even for national elections, giving some the impression that it is a right that is not held in esteem by many citizens. There are many citizens who never vote, nor wish to. On the other hand, there are some who view this right as the most important part of their citizenship.

For your consideration: What if the United States were to impose a requirement one year of public service before a citizen had the right to vote? This wouldn’t be imposed retroactively upon the populace, and those already voting would be “grandfathered”. But at some specified date in the future, anyone reaching the age of majority would have to put in their time in order to vote. This service could be performed directly after High School. College students would have the option of serving during their summer breaks for four years for a total of one year.

Public service need not be in the military, although that would certainly qualify. It could be something as simple as picking up trash on the highway, or working in a social service agency, or addressing letters at City Hall, or any number of mundane tasks that are required to keep government working. Certainly anyone deemed physically unfit for service would be exempted, but it would seem that there are enough jobs that are not physically strenuous that this should be relatively rare.

Payment would be made, say at minimum wage, but would be non-taxable which would make it marginally more attractive than a fast food job. Perhaps there could be some other incentives such as an increased rate of retirement disbursements.

My thought is that the right to vote would be taken much more seriously when it is known that there is value to it, instead of one of those things take for granted.

It is interesting to speculate which educational and economic classes would choose to take this option. And what that would do to the nature of our government. But, that’s what discussion is all about.

Any thoughts?

Dunno; these sorts of ideas can usually be summed up as "how can I get more people like me to vote, while discouraging people unlike me from voting.

I think it’s a generally bad idea to start attaching conditions like public service to voting; for a start, voting is public service, but this also seems like an eager step towards totalitarianism, where people would exist to serve the party, not the other way around.
It would be quite easy to set something like this in place, but quite difficult to remove it if it turned out bad (which I happen to think it would) - because the system automatically disqualifies the voice of those that might oppose it.

Basically the proposal seems to be that you have to earn the right to have a say in how the society that governs you, governs you. I find the idea abhorrent: if the society gets to have a say in what you do, then you get to have a say in what the society does, simple as that. Should society have to earn the right to have jurisdiction over me?

However, a separate requirement for national service is not something that bothers me. Just don’t link it to voting.


And even if they don’t start out that way, they often end up that way. Literacy tests, for example, were used in various ways to exclude “undesirable” voters.

Unless you’re going to pay a living wage to do this, it discriminates against the people who are qualified for a job that pays better and need that extra money to live on, are not qualified for the military, and whose parents are unable or unwilling to support them while they do their service. You just can’t live in a lot of areas on a fast-food wage, even if it is tax-free. It’s worse for teenage parents, who have to support their children as well. And exempting parents from the service requirement would create a perverse incentive for poor teenagers to have kids, which isn’t good.

Would the government offices where these kids were doing their service have the ability to fire them if they’re not doing a good job? If not, what incentive do the kids have to do a good job, or at the very least not create more work for the other workers in the office by doing their job badly? If so, what safeguards are there against someone in a government office firing people ostensibly for doing a poor job, but really for being poor (or rich), or the wrong race or religion, or having the wrong political opinions? Being able to prevent people whose opinions you don’t like from ever voting would be way too tempting to a lot of people.

How would it be guaranteed that any kid who wanted to do service of this sort would have the opportunity to do so? Are the hard-to-place kids going to eventually be forced on some agency?