I Actually Think FEWER People Should Vote
Yeah, this is my only really “dangerous” idea . It’s the kind of thing that people are either horrified by or they assume I’m being facetious. But, I really think this would be a better country if FEWER people voted.
You’ve heard it said many times, “EVERYONE should vote!”
“It’s your duty as an American!”
“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain!”.
This last one has always made the least sense to me. Why SHOULDN’T you be able to complain just because you didn’t vote? Says who? Since when are apathy and malcontentedness mutually exclusive?
There are already many, many exceptions already to “EVERYONE should vote”. Prisoners serving time for felony convictions, for starters. Also, several states don’t allow convicted felons to vote even after they ‘ve served their time.
People under 18 years of age. It used to be 21 but when they reinstated the draft, they realized the optics were not great that a person could get drafted, sent to Vietnam, get killed in action and STILL have another three years to go before they got to have any say about it.
Also, about 30 states don’t allow people with certain mental incapacities to vote. Apparently, they can still RUN if they so choose.
Why don’t we let 5 year olds vote? Because they couldn’t possibly be expected to understand all the complex issues. Well, guess what…there are plenty of 30, 40 and 70 year old people that don’t understand the issues! That’s not even necessarily a knock against them. I’ve heard some people say, “I just don’t care about politics” and that’s fine. These people are much less likely to make Thanksgiving dinner uncomfortable or post sanctimonious screeds on Facebook. But, for the love of liberty, we shouldn’t DEMAND that someone who doesn’t care about politics, vote! That would be like me asking a vegan how I should get my steak cooked.
Also, before you start GUILTING people into voting, have you ever stopped to think, “Gee, maybe they know themselves better than I do.” If somebody is honest enough with themselves to realize they don’t know enough about the issues to make a permanent, irrevocable decision maybe you shouldn’t shame them into doing it anyway.
So, I definitely feel like those MTV Get Out the Vote campaigns were misguided at best. If the only reason you voted in 1998 was because Coolio said you should, maybe it would have been fine for you to sit it out.
- POINT ONE: If someone seems like they’re not interested in voting, leave them alone.
I say that people who don’t know the issues shouldn’t vote but I don’t say it in an elitist way because, I’m willing to admit what I’m not qualified to have an opinion on. The example I like to use is the office of Texas Railroad Commissioner. I don’t know what the Railroad Commissioner even DOES and I certainly don’t know why Candidate A would be better at doing it than Candidate B. So, I typically leave that part of the ballot blank. I know my own limitations. Sure, I COULD read up on what the Texas RRC actually does and I COULD find out about each of the candidates’ positions as they pertain to…good…railroad…governance? I COULD do that. But I won’t. Because I don’t really care. Hence, I don’t vote.
There are some people out there who know as little about the Attorney General’s race or the U.S. Senate candidates as I know about the Train Boss-person, as I think I remember it being called. Those people shouldn’t feel pressured to vote in those races any more than I should feel pressured to vote for Choo-Choo decision-maker. Know your limitations.
- POINT TWO: If you have enough self-awareness to acknowledge that you DON’T know the issues at stake, NOT voting is a patriotic option and it shouldn’t be demonized.
Finally, I don’t think everyone who is interested in and believes they are knowledgeable of the issues should vote. This brings us to an amazing human quirk known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. In a nutshell, Dunning-Kruger tells us that people with lower knowledge or ability will consistently rate themselves higher, while people who actually DO HAVE higher knowledge or ability will rate themselves lower than they actually are. It’s the reason a loudmouth drunk at the end of the bar with a 10th grade education can tell you EXACTLY what the nature of the universe is while an astrophysicist with multiple PhDs will talk about “probabilities”, “uncertainties”, and “cognitive biases”. It’s the reason that NFL head coaches get fired all the time but arm-chair quarterbacks are never wrong.
All I’m suggesting is a simple, unbiased pop quiz to be given to everyone that shows up at a polling station. The questions should be simple. SO simple. MIND-NUMBLINGLY simple. There should be three of these laughably simple questions and the potential voter should only be required to get one out of three right! It should be so easy that only a simpleton or someone who actively avoids learning about current affairs could fail it.
Some of the typical questions would be, “Name one of your two U.S. Senators” or “Which Constitutional Amendment guarantees freedom of speech?”. Remember, they only have to get ONE out of three! If you go 0 for 3 on questions as simple as this I don’t think it’s unreasonable for you to be, like a McDonald’s owner spotted eating at Subway every day, disenfranchised.
- POINT THREE: We shouldn’t allow our country to be an ongoing victim of the Dunning-Kruger effect.