Ways to improve elections: voting exams

So, just imagining if elections could be less of the spectacle of misinformation and jingoism that they are.

One thing which I thought would be cool (but clearly not practical): election exams.

So to vote you go to your local test centre (or maybe online, but you somehow need to prevent cheating).
There are a list of issues and you pick, say, three most important to you.
You then need to pass an exam on those 3 topics. The test is “open book” (you can use reference material), and you can attempt them multiple times. But if you’re unable or unwilling to pass the exams, you can’t vote.

When it comes to casting your vote, there is simply a list of positions on the issues that you just were examined on. You pick the positions that you most agree with, and that’s it. The positions map to political parties and your opinions give the parties points, say.
Also there would be more than 2 credible parties, partly due to the mechanism of voting.

Thoughts? (Again, I know it’s not practical and it’s not gonna happen)

What about other radically different election ideas?

What could possibly go wrong?

I didn’t know about that particular piece of history. :smack:

Still, that’s an example of abuse of a system. Believe it or not, regular elections can also be abused. And trying to minimize the black vote is not something that went out with the Voting Rights Act.

What about giving us an example of how it might go? Pick three positions or topics, then give us…say…three questions for each one that you might ask.

True and true. My point is that I think freedom depends on there not being some guy who gets to draw arbitrary lines. We have free speech, and we don’t pick and choose which speech is free and which is banned based on its content. Because even if we are all nice people who only wanted to ban the really, really nasty stuff, that entails picking a guy to do it and humans are necessarily fallible, and sometimes corrupt.

Liberty demands that the qualifications for voting be objective and clearly defined.

I don’t always vote based on whether the candidate agrees with my positions. Particularly for governor/president there have been several candidates I couldn’t vote for even though I agreed ideologically because they were thoroughly unsuited for the job.

The first thing to say is that this whole thread was not meant entirely seriously. The kind of responses I was expecting was “Yeah! I’d like to see <partisan public figure> sit an exam on macroeconomics!!!1!1”
You weren’t supposed to call my bluff…
Ok, so here’s an example of the kind of thing I imagined. So say you put “healthcare” as a topic. You might have to answer a question like the following. The point being that you’d have to at least look at a summary of the Bill to be able to answer the question (and perhaps notice that Death Panels are not mentioned).

Excellent point - Dukakis didn’t lose in 1988 because people disagreed with his positions; he lost because people thought he wasn’t qualified to run a golf course, far less the whole country.

Just keep in mind that I’m a smart, politically aware guy. You’d probably like for me to say my say in the political process, but I don’t really need any more disincentives to vote. An exam? Fuck it. I’d rather stay home and eat a sandwich, because I’m smart like that.

I realize that politicking has never been squeaky-clean nor pleasant, but it’s seemed particularly distasteful this year – and I see no prospects of it improving.

This morning, on my way to the polling place, I considered voting for only the persons for whom I would vote anyway and who did not run negative advertising (meaning, even if I thought the person would do a good job in the position, they would not get my vote because they participated in the destructive rancor that has become the six-month period that precedes Election Day).

In the voting booth, I saw that, by that criteria, I could vote for only one person in one major race.

I ended up completing the ballot; I think I’ll write to the persons for whom I voted, though – win or lose – to let them know that they very nearly didn’t get my vote because of their choice to participate in the ridiculousness.

Well, um, this is embarrassing, but I honestly wouldn’t be sure what the answer to this is. I know it’s not the first or last ones. I’m guessing the third one, right?

Here’s the thing though: I am a pretty politically aware person. Hell, I’ve got a political science degree and am a debate coach. Aside from the historical precedent, I still think voting exams are a bad idea. Like it or not, democracy is open to everyone. Yes, dumb people vote, but guess what? Dumb people are also citizens who have a right to be represented.

Of course, maybe I’m the dumb one, getting all perplexed by your question. . .

Technically, his campaign tanked.

Yep. I should mention btw I’m not american, but like much of the world I have been watching the elections with interest. I can’t believe how negative the ads have become this year. Though it is amusing with ads like Quayle’s “knock the hell” out of Washington.

Sorry, no :slight_smile:

I did err on the side of difficult. As I said though it would be open book. In fact, perhaps they’d hand you a booklet with all the answers within. The point of the test being just to be sure you read (or at least scan) the information.


No. God, no. Illiterate citizens that are at least 18 years of age have the right to vote. People who don’t know shit about shit have the right to vote.

This is a horrible idea. First of all, it assumes that “issues” are what people care about when picking a leader. Maybe I want to vote for a candidate because she’s smoking hot. That’s my right. It’s not important what she THINKS, I just want a hot little piece of ass to put in my district’s desk in the House. Or maybe I don’t nec. agree with any of the planks in Party X’s platform, but I want to vote for them because they give off a more positive vibe than Party Y. Many people vote not for whom they most agree with, but for the person they perceive as the most honest, honorable, upstanding etc… Maybe I want to vote for someone because they’re Jewish, or Catholic, or black, or gay, or a woman, or from my home state, or my ex-lover. It’s my right to vote for whomever I want for whatever reason.
And this method doesn’t take write-ins into account. If it did still have a write-in option, people would just write-in the actual name of the candidate they wanted, completely by-passing the obfuscating layers of questions you just introduced.

There is already a hue-and-cry about whether or not it is legal to require a person to show a photo ID before being allowed to vote. Even the “simple” requirement of possessing a photo ID can be taken as a disenfranchisement for certain segments of the population.

So, if jurisdictions can’t require that a person be able to prove who they say they are, they most certainly won’t be able to require that a person is actually intelligent enough to vote.

Popular Southern joke from the Civil Rights era.

Three factory workers go to vote for the first time. Two are white, one is black. The election judge says, “Since all you boys are voting for the first time, y’all need to take the literacy test.”

The judge says to the first white guy, “Spell ‘cat.’”

To the second white guy he says, “Spell ‘dog.’”

Then he says to the black guy, “spell ‘chrysanthemum.’”

So, there you go: someone who spent four years studying political science just failed your test. I watch the news every day. I read news updates all day while at work. I read Congressional bills for fun. I know all kinds of fun political philosophy and history. I coach high school students on rhetoric and politics. And. . . I failed your test. Should the average contractor who runs his own business but barely graduated high school be denied the rights of citizenship based on a test someone with a political science degree might fail?

ok, I think people are taking the idea more seriously than it was intended. I had also intended people to suggest other “wacky” ideas to improve elections. I guess I got the tone wrong.

But yeah, as an ideal, it would be cool to say: If you want to vote on the healthcare bill, you need to know about it or be willing to learn.
In fact, let’s make it that: exams before you can vote on referendums, not elections.

Because I also agree with some of the points that people have made about elections: that it’s not just about ideology.
The former Prime Minister of the UK campaigned on a platform of “I may not have style, but I have substance”. I think he missed the point that when it comes to being a leader, being the figurehead of Britain and his party, it’s necessary to have both.