Voter Responsibilities

Few would disagree that the opportunity to vote for those who would represent our interests is a valuable requirement for securing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in this country or any other on this planet. However, I’m reminded of the old saying, “For every complicated problem, there’s usually a simple solution – that’s wrong.” There are around 145,000,000 registered voters in this country who have accepted the responsibility of electing 500,000 local, state, and federal office holders. Dividing the total number of registered voters by the total number of elected office holders would mean that 290 voters would be responsible for each office holder. That certainly is a simple solution. Also, few would disagree that it’s a simple solution that’s wrong.
Why is it wrong? I live in unincorporated area of one of the lowest density populated counties (Levy) in Florida. I am responsible for 42 elected officials, from the county tax collector to the president of the United States, and I don’t have 290 other voters to help me pick the right one for the job. If I could read an unbiased report about each of the people I need to pick, it would move me from my common present category of “voter”, to the very uncommon category of “informed voter”.
Of course, I used the term “unbiased report”, as though something like that actually exists. The closest thing I might hope for is that each official had at least two people reporting (i.e. progressive vs. conservative, Dem. vs. Rep., Right vs. Left, Christian vs. Muslim, up vs. down, hot vs. cold, etc. etc., you get the idea.) Considering the 42 people I am responsible for, to keep up to date on their beliefs, values, actions and voting record, I would have to read the reports of at least 84 Blogers. Multiply that by the other 500,000 offices that are out there, and that’s what makes the solution complicated, not simple.
Thankfully, we are at the dawn of the Information Technology and the possibility exists that Google or a company with similar resources will begin establishing a database that will give every voter access to information of each and every elected official in the country. Imagine if I could go to a webpage, type in my address and it would not only return a list of the precinct, city, county, state, and federal office holders that I am responsible for, but a link to the Blogers who are keeping track of the particular person presently holding that office, past office holders, but also candidates vying for the job if it’s election time.
Think of how good I, an informed voter, would feel casting my ballot. That is until I glanced over and saw a person I know who lives under a bridge casting his ballot. He has no property, no money except that which he was given panhandling, and no education. In short, he has not invested in his family, his community, or his country, yet his vote counts exactly the same as mine. Why should I care? Because his vote is going to affect the property I have worked for, the family I provide for, the community that provides services for me, and the country the protects me from forces in this world that would take what I have earned without batting an eye.
I think we can solve the informed voter problem, but I have no idea how we are going to solve the voter iniquity problem. I’d be interested in any ideas that anyone may have on the subject.

Why should I value your ballot over the one from the guy living in a van down by the river? Maybe you misread or misunderstood whatever drivel you allowed some partisan blogger to substitute for your own thought process. Maybe you’re voting for a guy I despise.

Do your own homework, cast your own ballot. TANSTAAFL applies. Always.

It might be more convenient if that information was centralized, but is any of it not out there?

Sorry, but I don’t know what TANSTAAFL means.

“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

Thanks for the translation. I try to do my own homework and I do cast my own ballot. But in so doing I value input from as many sources as I can get, as you suggested. Thanks for the help.

The only responsibilities you have as a voter are the ones self imposed.

And yet you are here to provide one?

First of all, can you even vote if you don’t have a permenant local mailing address?

Second, just because you managed to scrape together a down payment on a house and knock up some girl doesn’t make you any more or less qualified to make decisions on politics, economics, laws, crime, national defense, where the highway should go through your town and so on.

Third, voting isn’t really about letting the people make decisions anyway. It’s about creating a non-violent mechanism where the people can choose who will lead them and then rescind that mandate if they don’t like the job they are doing.

Fourth, for every uninformed idiot there is another uninformed idiot who votes the opposite way, cancelling him out. Statistically, the cumulative result of those errors should produce a decent enough result.

Finally, the reason everyone’s vote counts equally is because everyone is subject to the same laws.

The information required to be an informed voter is already out there; the voter simply has to do a little research to find it.

When I first moved here to Creve Coeur, I found a website that listed all the voting districts of my new address. That helped, but I still had to do the legwork to find out who was representing those districts, and when the elections were for those districts. (Up to three elections a year in Missouri. Last year there were binding referendums on the ballot in what was otherwise a party primary election!)

The informed voter problem will not be solved by your proposal, some people simply won’t do even that much work.

I don’t know how the voter inequity problem is going to be solved either. It’s definitely difficult for people without a permanent mailing address to vote, or people without a government issued picture ID to vote, or people in jail or prison to vote, or people who have moved interstate within 30 days of an election to vote.

I have a proposition, though: abolish voter registration, let everyone vote who claims they are eligible, and if they can be shown to have voted illegally, prosecute them in a court of law.

Oak: Your Honor, the Defense requests you take judicial notice of Public Law (number here) that “abolished voter registration”, and moves to dismiss all charges. I further move to slap Mr. Prosecutor with a rolled up newspaper, because he’s been a bad puppy.

Judge: Both motions granted. Further, Mr. Prosecutor, if you file charges in this Court under “abolished” laws again, I’m going to cite you for being a dumbass, and toss you in the county jail.

<bangs gavel>

The abolishment of voter registration does not remove laws that forbid voting by non-citizens, voting multiple times, voting by the dead, voter intimidation, etc., etc., etc. All those will remain crimes punishable by due process of law.

What did my wording express so that you interpreted that such would not still be crimes?

Most of those crimes involve some degree of interplay with voter registration laws.

It is analogous to repealing the motor vehicle code, then attempting to prosecute a DUI. One of the elements of that crime is likely to be some variant of “defendant was operating a motor vehicle within the meaning of Section (number here) of the Motor Vehicle Code on the public roadways of <jurisdiction here>” The prosecution can’t prove that element, because you abolished the code section containing the definition.

All of those crimes involve the act of voting. In all of those crimes, it is the act of voting that makes them a crime.

Nonsense. The only one of those that might be a crime under voter registration laws is that of a non-citizen registering to vote, and if such a non-citizen voted, that would still be a crime under existing voter laws. The correct analogy would be if I had suggested removing all laws governing voting. You’ll note that I did not.


OK, Frank. Whatever you say. Far be it from me to cast aspersions on legal conclusions drawn by laymen on the internet.


Ya know, that reads way more dickish than I intended. Sorry, Frank.

There are places (North Dakota comes to mind) where there is no voter registration, and elections seem to be run in a free and fair manner. But why actually introduce facts into this discussion?

To those who have responded to my original thoughts about voting, i.e., (1) informed voter vs. uninformed voter, & (2) voter inequity - thank you for your comments. Your responses make my day a little brighter knowing that there are at least a few people out there who can think. And more importantly at least a few people out there who give a dam about how their country might be run.
I agree with several of your comments suggesting that it is primarily each and every voter’s job to spend the time and effort to evaluate the actions of incumbents as well as the anticipated actions of candidates. It’s true that, like getting a drivers license, no one is required to register to vote if they don’t want to, any more than they are required to drive a car if they don’t wont to; however, whenever someone accepts the responsibility of driving or voting, there is an implied presumption that all those that avail themselves of these privileges do so by agreeing to meet certain reasonable conditions. We all agree that demonstrating a certain amount of proficiency while driving a car is a good Idea. It’s clear that not doing so has disastrous consequences (In Florida alone, 8 people are killed every day resulting from car accidents.) It seems like demonstrating a certain amount of proficiency when exercising the privilege of voting might not be a bad idea either. Not doing so may also result in disastrous consequences. I’m sure that demonstrating some type of voter proficiency is a lot easier said than done. (Want to know how to play a flute? Blow in the hole and wiggle the levers. How hard can that be?) - Once again demonstrating that difficult problems do not always have simple solutions.

You haven’t provided evidence for these assertions. And our history shows a great danger when we try to impose anything like that.

Unproven assertions: Telemark, as an engineer, certainly you will agree that just one days news coverage is replete with examples of what happens when someone who is not skilled in a particular area attempts to perform in that area. Some things are so obvious that they are stipulated without further explanation, e.g. prima facie evidence.
History: When Henry David Thoreau was extolling the virtues of emancipation he said, “What is done well once, is done forever.” History not only shows us the good things that have been accomplished, but unfortunately the bad as well. So I agree with you that there is great danger if demonstration of competency is administered by those who might have other motives than improving our government by improving and expanding an informed electorate.
So the argument should not be whether it’s a good idea to measure and insure competency, but exactly how is that accomplished without trampling over justice.

And yet you’ve still not managed to produce any evidence that educated voters would produce any better results for society than making sure that everyone feels they have a hand in the election process. You can easily make the case that if you remove people’s connection to the free and fair election process that society as a whole will be much worse.

I reject your premise. Make your case before you worry about quoting Thoreau.