The Daily Need

Are bad voters like drunk drivers? New book says they are, and that they should stay home on Election Day

A federal government that spends 50 percent of its budget on “waste,” 30 percent on foreign aid and 10 percent on public pensions. A president who is both secretly a Muslim and a socialist. A Congress that can repeal a law — in this case, the 2009 health care reform — simply by a majority vote of one chamber.

This, according to substantial numbers of Americans, is our government.

And if that scares you, consider this: Regardless of whether you believe the facts above, you are allowed — even encouraged — to vote.

But should you? Not everyone thinks so.

Polls have shown routinely that large numbers of Americans know very little about how our political system works. And it’s not just a lack of factual knowledge — Americans’ skewed understanding of how the government functions (or fails to function) also influences their proposals for how to fix it.

Take, for example, foreign aid. When asked what percentage of the budget the government should spend on international assistance, most Americans said about 10 percent. That may seem like a fair proposal, but consider this: As it stands now, the government only spends about one percent of its budget on aid to other countries. Americans seem to vastly inflate how much the government spends on foreign aid. Some said it comprised as much as 30 percent of the budget — which is why they suggested “cutting” it down to 13 percent.

The same problem surfaces when pollsters ask Americans how they would solve the country’s spiraling debt crisis. Many say they would simply slash “waste” and discretionary spending from the federal budget, but would safeguard cherished entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. They also, by and large, oppose tax increases.

But earmarks, public pensions and other types of “wasteful” spending comprise a mere sliver of the $14 trillion national debt. To get that number down, receipts from tax revenues will have to go up and outlays for expensive programs will have to go down. To make real progress in cutting the deficit, Americans will have to decide which tax hikes they can stomach and which services they can live without.

First, though, they’ll have to find out how much those services actually cost.

And if you can’t bother to do that, says author Jason Brennan, you should probably just stay home on Election Day.

“If most voters decide, ‘We don’t know anything, we’re just going to kind of choose whatever we find emotionally appealing,’ then they’re imposing that upon other people,” said Brennan, a professor of political philosophy at Brown University. “And not only are they imposing it upon other people, they’re imposing it literally at gunpoint.”

Brennan is the author of “The Ethics of Voting,” a new book that questions the conventional belief that voting is a civic duty, and that a person’s vote is sacrosanct. Brennan argues that voting is more than just an expression of personal preferences (Do I support reproductive rights? Do I oppose gay marriage?). Voting, according to Brennan, is actually a decision about how other people should live. And that, he says, makes it a “pretty hardcore ethical situation.”

“When I’m at a restaurant deciding what to eat, I’m deciding for myself. I choose to have a hamburger, I’m the person who lives with the consequences. If it’s overly fatty, I get fat, you don’t get fat. If it causes heart disease, I get it, not you,” Brennan said. “When we’re voting, we are imposing costs upon one another. We’re not just deciding for ourselves.”

And because of that, Brennan argues, there is no moral obligation to vote — in fact, not everyone should vote. “I don’t think people have a duty to vote. I argue that voting is just one of many ways you can exercise civic virtue,” Brennan said. “I think it’s sort of morally optional. If you do it well, it’s praiseworthy, but it’s not anything special.”

The point isn’t merely that you should feel free to stop reading newspapers or paying attention to elections when they roll around. As Brennan put it, misinformed choices at the ballot box have harmful consequences for society, and we’re all forced to live with those consequences. So we need to reconsider what voting is, and who should do it.

Of course, deciding whether you are qualified to vote is a tricky thing. Because we tend to view facts and evidence through the prism of our political ideology, we’re unlikely to be swayed by the argument that we shouldn’t vote because our beliefs are “unfounded,” or that they’re “contradicted by evidence.” We view the evidence however we want to view it. Some voters even seem to pride themselves on their ignorance.

That, Brennan says, is “irrational.” In a way, it’s like driving drunk.

“When you’re driving drunk, if there’s a kid crossing the street, like in a crosswalk, you have an obligation to stop, not to hit the child. However, because you’re drunk, you might be unable to even notice that there’s a child there, and you just smash right into him,” Brennan said. “It might be that voters are kind of like that too. They have this obligation not to do the equivalent of ‘crashing’ — they have an obligation to vote well. But they’re in sort of an ‘intoxicated state’ when it comes to assessing themselves and their own character as political agents. So they have a hard time figuring out whether they should vote or not.”

Brennan restricts his book specifically to a discussion of the moral permissibility of voting — whether you’re acting unethically if you vote based not on a rational assessment of the facts but for emotional or ideological reasons. But Brennan confessed that, since writing the book, he has become more sympathetic to the idea that we should simply forbid some people from voting if they are “unqualified” to do so.

If we were to stick with the drunk driving analogy, for example, we might view the right to vote in the same way we view the right to drive. If you’re unqualified to drive — if you haven’t proven that you can do it safely and responsibly, with low risk to other drivers — you don’t get a license. And if you’re unqualified to go to the polls — if you’re misinformed and incurious, if you dismiss all evidence that contradicts your partisan ideology — you don’t get the right to vote.

“Since writing ‘The Ethics of Voting,’ I’ve actually become more sympathetic to the idea that maybe people should be formally excluded from voting,” Brennan said.

Of course, there are obvious dangers implicit in this view, as Brennan admits. Special interests, for example, might co-opt the voting process to exclude those who won’t support their agenda. Incumbents might bar voters who are likely to oust them from office. And literacy and comprehension tests have an ugly history dating back to the Jim Crow era, when they were used to disenfranchise African-Americans. That led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Regardless, Brennan’s work prompts a reconsideration of voting as an act with serious social consequences, rather than a simple expression of personal preferences. Voting may indeed be like drinking and driving: Even if we’re allowed to do it, we may nonetheless want to heed Brennan’s warning and “vote responsibly.”

 
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Comments

  • Jbold1

    The problem of voting isn’t that people don’t know how government works, it’s that they cannot possibly know how government works. “Experts” on the subject of government and public policy only pretend to know what the hell they’re talking about and often disagree. How is the average citizen supposed to make sense of the convoluted mess we call government? I would agree with the author if he argued that NOBODY is qualified to vote, but the suggestion that some are and some aren’t is fiction.

    Let’s examine just one example in this article. You write:

    “As it stands now, the government actually only spends about one percent of its budget on aid to other countries. As it turns out, Americans vastly inflate how much the government spends on foreign aid.”

    Okay, so government bookkeepers put “foreign aid” in a column of some ledger equaling 1% of the budget. Then the president goes to war in Libya to “aid the rebels” there. So the typical citizen is supposed to know that the cost of that action goes under “defense spending” not “foreign aid” despite the fact that the action wasn’t made in the defense of the nation, but as foreign aid. It all amounts to Orwellian double-speak which is incomprehensible.

    The author is quite right when he suggest that voting is about how others are to live, so the only thing that can be done is to severely limit those things upon which people can vote; therefore mitigating the damage that can be done others by the folly of voting.

  • alleycat

    @jbold1: interesting comment, and i agree with much of it. i’ll quibble with this bit though – characterizing the libyan operation as foreign aid is stretching it rather a bit, just as it’s a stretch to characterize virtually any of the military operations the u.s. engages in as “in defense of the nation”.

    we need an “advancing hegemony” column in that ledger in a big way.

  • mac

    I would submit:
    Elitist jerks like Brennan be barred from voting.

    Really, where would we draw the line? Couldn’t the argument be made that anyone that disagreed with the prevailing wisdom must be uninformed?

    Brennan has a point about unimformed voting being dangerous. However, this very reason is why we are not a true a democracy. We have certain checks in place to prevent a “mob rules” government and society. I think some folks may call it the Constitution.

    It seems the good professor is woefully misguided as to the American way. Perhaps he should preclude himself from future voting.

  • Anonymous

    It is really dependent on people’s personal Education in which here in the US we are in a tough spot because the Education is dependent on money. Some have, some don’t and there we go in this mad circle of bad choices. Maybe what the US needs is not education first but to wake “tha hell up” and understand that Education and Health Care are your fundamental right and not your privilege. Only then we can begin after that to have a democracy. Until then, let us all do like Obama and the Media does. BS everybody over and over again.

  • SFPhoto

    I would like to second the the opinion voiced earlier by mac: “Elitist jerks like Brennan be barred from voting.” There would no valid way to ascertain whether one person is uniformed or just holding an opposing point of view. I live in San Francisco where opposing points of view are met with such hostility that the only place you can express therm are on a secret ballot.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cubby20sam Sam Aguirre

    I agree with the premise that misinformed voters are negatively affecting our society, and that this is an issue that absolutely needs to be addressed in order to have a ‘working’ democracy. However, the solution should not be to exclude voters, but to better inform them.

    It’s laughable to me that this country is considered to be a great democracy when the majority of its citizens are lacking the knowledge of basic civics. What’s worse is that this deficiency has also spread to the American media and to our very government itself. If this is true, then where should we go to get better informed? Does such a service exist anymore, were EVERYONE can point to and say “this is indeed 100% factual”? It seems like partisan politics has permeated into every part of our lives.

    Instead of having a discussion on whether or not we should bar misinformed citizens from voting, we should have the difficult conversation on how to reform the election process. In all seriousness, how can we expect voters to be adequately informed when we allow candidates to say whatever they want and never face any consequences.

    If there was one reform that I would like to see, it would be to add one check-box to every ballot. The check-box will signify that the voter was not satisfied by the election process AND/OR candidate pool. It will basically be a “NO-CONFIDENCE VOTE”. One were if checked by a certain percentage of the voting public, a bi-partisan commission will be REQUIRED to implement reforms to the election process.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1448183332 Kellen Dunkelberger

    The tax increase claim is false.
    The American People overwhelmingly support tax increases for the top marginal bracket.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=815698566 Kitty Carlisle

    “Ignorance” has been the excuse most frequently used to bar one or another group from exercising their civil rights. It was used against blacks, who were accused of not having the intellect to understand the issues, and against women, who were thought to use their emotions to choose candidates. It was a major defense of the feudal system that held that peasants were too dumb to govern themselves, and needed a ruling class to take care of them. It’s really easy to sit in judgement of whole sections of the population. Those that erroneously believe that the President is a secret Kenyan Muslim think that the rest of the population is stupid for not believing as they do. How do you define ignorance? Most often, by who disagrees with you.

    Exactly who would judge someone too ignorant to vote, and how would they do it? The Founding Fathers figured out that the only fair solution was to allow every man to vote, despite arguments that only landholders should vote. Thankfully, that was expanded to include African Americans and women.

    This idea comes up again and again every decade. Fortunately, there are enough smart voters out there to vote it down.

  • http://flavors.me/Audiovore Audiovore

    I believe voting is a civil duty, and should be required a la Australia & Argentina. While he does have a point about the misinformed, we should focus on fixing that problem, not ignoring it. Education reform is a good start, but more importantly we need a media reform. We need to protect the word and profession journalist, along with what constitute news. And then /severely/ limit the amount/level of opinion allowed on a network that wishes to be branded a news network.

  • Quakerorts

    Everyone should vote, even if they’re just voting their heart or their gut. Conservatives generally don’t want everyone to vote because they know they are really a small minority and they would never win a national election if everyone voted. The misinformed voters from all viewpoints should cancel each other out.

  • guest

    the US has one of the poorest voting turnouts in the democtratic world … in germany for example once the turnout drops below 75% they are talking about a “crisis for democracy” … “the non-voters are in the majority” etc etc … in the US the democracy is praised when the turn-out is over 30% !

  • Guest

    As a woman who extensively studied Constitutional Law at the university level, I find Professor Brennan’s findings to be generalized and quite honestly frustrating. Professor’s Brennan’s assertion about ignorant people not being allowed to vote is the same logic that was used to prevent women and African-Americans from voting in America. Even though Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass may have been vastly more informed than many of their white male counterparts, they could not vote until the passage of the 15th and 19th Amendments respectively. Even after the 15th Amendment, African-American men could not vote in the south because of the Jim Crow laws or “voting standards” such as literacy or owning land. Thank you to the journalist, Mr. Gentile, for mentioning that at the end of the article.

    To simply say that someone is “ignorant” therefore they should not vote goes against the whole idea of what our country was founded upon, the freedom of choice. Under a monarchy, we did not HAVE a choice in government matters. To simply take away a right which our country was founded upon and what many groups achieved through long fought suffrage is detrimental to American democracy, not productive. I may not agree with many of my conservative friends and how they vote, but I can try to persuade them to see another side and have occasionally succeeded. That is how you inform people: through open, civilized discourse.

    Different opinions is what makes our country unique and solely because we may not like an opposing party’s view does make it inferior . People said the same things about the 1960s and Johnson, that it was the end of democracy and that we were all going to hell in a hand-basket. People said the same thing about Nixon in the 1970s, especially after Watergate. People said the same thing about President Carter and his hippie ways in the late 1970s. People said the same thing about President Reagan and Reaganomics in the 1980s. People said the same thing about President Clinton when he was elected in the 1990s . I said the same thing about President W. Bush being elected in 2000 and again in 2004, yet American democracy didn’t come to an end, it prevailed.

  • http://twitter.com/BPDalton F Ray

    As someone who has “studied constitutional law at the the university level” you can appreciate the importance of critical reflection. The ability to vet information at hand. This is the entire point of the article. If a few shots are fired for fun…so what. Tu Quoque!

    Your Carter ad hominem suggests that you are really a conservative posing as an independent. This underscores my point. The Carter presidency is the most misunderstood in recent history. For instance…The double digit inflation of the 70′s was due mostly to a move away from Bretton Woods and to the subsequent devaluing of the US Dollar by Nixon. You wont here that from your conservative friends

  • http://www.facebook.com/stefan0325 Stefan Meyer

    maybe you should preclude yourself from voting. It is the constitution that insures a government that is not representative of the people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stefan0325 Stefan Meyer

    Your response is obviously to an article of which you only read the headline. Also, where is there any mention of disallowing people from voting?

  • Guest

    He’s not saying that they shouldn’t be ALLOWED to vote. He’s saying that they ought to feel morally obligated either to vote from an informed point of view or not vote at all. It’s not an infringement on your freedom to have to hear someone else’s appeal to your conscience.

  • Guest

    Actually, I read the whole article and here’s the quote that fired me up: And if you’re unqualified to go to the polls — if you’re misinformed and incurious, if you dismiss all evidence that contradicts your partisan ideology — you don’t get the right to vote.”

    That logic is completely undemocratic.

  • Guest

    No, the Carter reference is merely an illustration of the minority’s generalization about America spiraling out of control because of the President’s policies, much like I mentioned several other Presidents. The last piece of the sentence is what’s important – “…yet American democracy didn’t come to an end, it prevailed.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=682311029 Claudia Nicholson

    Aside from changing our education system so that high school graduates have a working knowledge of government, and the tools to become informed, voting should be preceded every time by an oath similar to the Hypocratic Oath: First, I shall do no harm with my vote . . .

  • Anonymous

    The second sentence disqualified me from reading this article. Just another right wing tea party hate monger.

  • Xegunda

    Boris Bazhanov’s Memoirs of Stalin’s Former Secretary, published in 1992 and so far as I know only available in Russian.
    The pertinent passage, which appears near the end of Chapter Five, reads as follows (loosely translated):

    “You know, comrades,” says Stalin, “that I think in regard to this: I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this — who will count the votes, and how.”

  • Guest

    Lobbyiists represent the most powerful political education system in America. Estimates are they earn three times what our Senators and Conressmen earn, and they are trading favors for votes, literally buying government. The gossip mill represents the other significant education system. New science shows Republicans vote from fear, and rumor and innuendo feed the fear-based brain at an alarming rate, thanks to social networking. But by and large, we like being igorant. We, the people, who have the power, would rather blame someone else for all our ills. I read the article as a call for us to get educated on the facts, on the candidates, on our own dreams for collective America– and if we’re too lazy or ignore-ant to do that, we should excuse ourselves, and abstain from voting.

  • texanne

    HE doesn’t believe that; he’s saying those things in the first paragraph are what some uninformed voters believe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/twangmaster Sam Hedrick

    Being “well informed” is an incredibly subjective statement. I would suggest that those who watch FoxNEWS are incredibly poorly informed. Most FoxNEWS fans would probably say I’m poorly informed because Im a fan of NPR. Sure, everyone should learn as much about the issues as possible, but my issues may be your propaganda. Brennen’s opinions are just that, and ill-informed to boot. Until people like Palin and Bachmann become more informed and educated, how do you expect the average voter to become so? I would suggest that everyone should be as well informed as possible, but regardless they should vote, as it’s their responsibility, not just a right. Brennen’s comments are elitist and exactly the reason so many dismiss NPR for being biased to the left. Get over yourself and vote your conscience, I’ll vote mine. I would thank everyone who makes the effort to make it to the polls, not just the ones who understand the minutia of politics.

  • Papillonbleu

    Even in Peru they are required to vote. I totally agree with you on the fact that networks need to severely limit their opinion when wanting to be called a “news network”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/william.ashcraft William Riker

    And if you would have read even a tiny bit more, or even just skipped to the next paragraph break, everything makes more sense.

  • John Galt

    It seems Brennan’s numbers may be wrong. According to the chart on http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/, pensions (entitlement programs) make up 21% which IS NOT a “sliver”, as Brennan put it. Hence, it would seem Brennan is uninformed and should not be allowed to vote or post his incorrect opinions in an attempt to sway the thoughts of anyone else.

  • http://www.facebook.com/william.ashcraft William Riker

    You’re basically saying the defense department should be changed to the war department because the average american is too stupid to put two and two together.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6TAFQVAOAWUJPYW6ZGG5CNOCOE Chartreuse

    One of the most offensive tools available to the uninformed voter is the lazy way out – the straight party ticket lever or scantron circle. I believe it should be outlawed.
    By choosing that route a voter is able to just vote on emotion instead of context. It allows one to ignore the fact that there are always poor candidates even in ones own party (as repeatedly seen in the New Mexico PRC elections). It allows one to ignore the fact that there could be a better candidate from an alternate party. It also greatly discriminates against third party candidates. It’s also the reason that fewer votes or consideration are given to amendments, bond issues, etc, often listed last on ballots. Those in haste to “vote” sometimes exercise the act in a fit of “cult of personality” or even something akin to electorally spray-painting their “gang tag” instead of something thoughtful and carrying weight.
    There is nothing wrong with leaving blanks in ones ballot if one doesn’t know the issue or the candidates in that race, as often happens, but the straight party vote ability legitimatizes that ignorance, and we all pay for this in the end.

  • Mona

    So if you feel like you’re too ignorant, you should just let others decide for you? This is a democracy and it doesn’t work that way. I consider myself well-informed but still learning – and constantly surprised and often dismayed at what I learn about the way politics is all pieced together. When am I ever going to feel like I know enough? Never. Look at India, the world’s largest democracy, with 1.2 billion people at last count. The national literacy rate is 74%. That’s just literacy, not a count of the educated/informed/well-read. They’re having elections right now as we speak – not a day-long process as in our case but a month-long process. Should the 5% or so who are educated make decisions for the rest? Hell, no! If illiterate people who need symbols to recognize which party is which (there’s a multi-party system) can make the system work and overthrow a fundamentalist religious government as they did a few years ago, we can certainly express our will here too. What a completely arrogant and elitist view that some people are more qualified to vote than others. People vote with their heads and with their hearts. But know this: even illiterate people have heads.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure that is his point. There are just as many uneducated, uninformed TP’ers out there, possibly more that cast their vote based upon a cult of personality rather than getting their news from sources besides FOX.

  • CSConradEsq

    Except that you are re-defining “pensions” at whim, in order to include ALL entitlement programs. Therefore, not only are you ignorant, but dishonest.

  • Anonymous

    I have enjoyed many of these comments as I try to conclude my senior paper on what it means to be citizen. In likeness to many comments I cannot entirely agree that drunk drivers and uninformed voters synonymous.

    Drunk drivers in 2004 were in 17,000+ fatal accidents; Less than 17,000 votes would have changed the outcome of the 2004 election – regardless of a person intellectual number. I would behoove us then to congratulate and thank the single parents that are working 3 jobs to supplement US welfare so that they can raise our successful and healthy tomorrows. I get your point a lot of Americans are not ready to play with the big boys, but Mom and Dad thank you for changing America everyday at a time and not just every once in awhile.

    I agree with you 10 –fold that the government needs to be elected by political professionals. I do not know about you but I could not even understand the Electoral College let alone porkbelly, logrolling and earmarking. Who made this stuff up? ¬¬-_____.
    Clearly those dimwits who believed in the American Dream ignored our superior voices. Really people! They took the President’s word over ours (You were right, our lives are affected by other voters. Oh well, they did it to themselves)! They were so dumb and more patriotic than most that they could not even see through the Bush 2003 Down payment Act trick.

    Imagine if that would have been an 1) Election Year, 2) fearful Red, Yellow, Green, Blue or Orange (line of B.S.) when statues where falling from the sky or 3) before a White Collar Crime that TKO’d Enron’s $1 note with $60 Notes (x9) more. If that was the case even Joe the Plumber would not have known his fantasy world was going to be overtaken by mavericks and a terrorist-named martians.

    Mr. Brennan, I by far agree with many of the things you have said. With impeccable sincerity it must be pointed out that the media should be faulted. You did not name this article and the heat that it brings. It really should be faulted for using their resources and power to empower the country instead of showing us Britney’s ___. (Probably shouldn’t spell that out). When they do that it just dumifies scholars and causes debate amongst the % of America who had the fair opportunity to prosper in the US schooling system.

    Your points would have come off much more Americanized if you would have just kept it a secret, but like you I sometimes forget we are in the Ivy Tower. May the lesson should be that Americans can use us. Obviously we will happily look down and point at them letting them know they are the ones who Bushified us. They win because they screwed up the country that only the smart people are supposed to live in. This will end the challenge to overthrow educated, 9-5, salaried people with healthy families and majority status. They will never need to leave their museums, sorry I meant homes, to associate with the lower rungs of society who do not know foreign affairs or how to point out the senior senator on the floor. Best of all, when the gods that they believed in and elected are ousted for using campaign contributions to hire hookers, I mean dates, or for wars to fix a past failure, it will not be the monkey on our backs.

    Again I do agree with you on many levels. Thankfully, the 4th top university in the country turned me into a Political Scientist. I could be locked in for life! So far I am only locked by 140K of loan debt. Whose the dimwit now? It’s my Mom’s fault she said we did not have to make our own choices and be “true Americans” because we were better than those idiots in jail or those dumb “legally” disenfranchised black men. (I did not know that word then she said they were so bad that really President said they could never vote again). Now with the patriot act I think we could call some of them suspect terrorist.

    Not that you were looking for help Mr. Brennan, but if your interested let’s chat over tea sometime; I think I can meet your educational standards and polish up your teaching skills.

    Then you and I, Mr. Brennan Can Change the World one willing ear at a time.

    It will be groundbreaking!

    Oh and YES I bought your book today, not joking at all! I again sincerely wanted it. I think it offers a very good but jagged reality that needs attention. It could really heal the American identity crises, like on 9/11 when color, gender, religion and hate all disappeared.

    - Hard to believe there was beauty in that day.

    Sorry it’s so long -

  • mac

    Please eloborate.

  • http://profiles.google.com/elgordo42 Gordon Glenn

    Social Security reteiement benefits might be called public pensions, but they are not employee benefits in the usual sense. They are entirely paid for from payroll taxes, half from the employee, half from the employer. They could remain witht he current rules and not even begin to contribute to a budget deficit until 2037.

  • DL

    It is the quickly prejudiced people like you who form the self-imposedly uninformed masses.

  • DL

    Yes. Perhaps our problem is that there are too few informed people voting, rather than too few uninformed ones. Sometimes, the informed feel powerless to change what they perceive as a fundamentally skewed/flawed system. Even Econ 101 books, for instance, recognize the great lags among idea, policy, implementation, and effect in the legislative/executive branches, preferring monetary policy to fiscal.

  • Carlos Djchang

    But you forget why the Electoral College came into place, the Forefathers had to create a system of balance in case a day came when the majority of citizens were not able to make conscious voting decisions. Case in point today the majority of people have no clue what so ever of what is going on in Washington. Ask the average person on the street what is in the Constitution, and you will see. So a mass of people not knowing what the law of the land is, how does a nation deal with that? So hence we have a Congress ignoring the law each day. Why not have a standard test on the Constitution in all schools once you pass that you are granted the right to vote. I see nothing wrong in that, I dont see that in any way excluding any one. The majority of people here can read & write, a simple test can be given to all wanting to get involved in voting.

  • John

    Though I agree with some of the sentiment you put forward here, how informed someone is, is not subjective. You’re engaging in intellectual relativism; in that you seem to think that someone’s personal perception equals a personal reality. Existential philosophy is not relevant in the context of measurable knowledge of facts and the concept of personal reality offered is a redefinition of “perception” used to give more weight to a person’s view point or ease acceptance of alternate viewpoints. No matter where you get your news, the facts remain the same, the rules remain the same, the issues remain the same; only the rhetoric and opinions offer change. Also, though I don’t think you’re necessarily suggesting this, NPR and FOX or even MSNBC and FOX are not equal and opposite faces of a coin. There are real and meaningful differences in the quality and journalistic integrity employed by these organizations. These differences are measurable and need not be subjective either.

  • John

    I agree. I also understand the underlying sentiment of frustration that the Prof. Brennan expresses. The problem is that though it may be infuriating to witness people so completely misinformed grasp their incorrect notions so vehemently and cast votes based on a massive misunderstanding of reality, to rise to the level of hubris prof. Brennan displays in suggesting a civics test requirement prior to voting flirts way too strongly with totalitarianism. Yes we need to do a better job as a nation when it comes to teaching and understanding civics. Also, the general contentiousness of the “my team vs. your team” mentality does a lot to cement people into incorrect positions; however, these are cultural issues that need to be course corrected, not something that should be stripped away via legislation.

    On the larger point he makes about whether people who have never heard of the name on the ballot they’re voting for should feel compelled to vote at all, I agree with prof. Brennan. There are better ways to exercise civic responsibility than voting if you have not spent at least several several hours familiarizing yourself with every candidate you will see on the ballot.

  • John

    How can you vote “your heart or your gut” when it comes to a name for, hypothetically, railroad commissioner that you’ve never heard of? These types of votes and the positions they fill will affect a person more than a vote for congress or the presidency. I chose the aforementioned position precisely because it’s a position in my state that is actually rather important, has nothing to do with railroads, and 95-99% of Texans who vote have no idea what a railroad commissioner does, why it’s important, or the backgrounds of the candidates trying to fill it, however they get to “vote their gut” each year because they have to fill out the whole ballot, even if they just came to vote for the national level positions. Maybe just having the option to pass on voting for positions or issues is the best solution.

  • John

    How can you vote “your heart or your gut” when it comes to a name for, hypothetically, railroad commissioner that you’ve never heard of? These types of votes and the positions they fill will affect a person more than a vote for congress or the presidency. I chose the aforementioned position precisely because it’s a position in my state that is actually rather important, has nothing to do with railroads, and 95-99% of Texans who vote have no idea what a railroad commissioner does, why it’s important, or the backgrounds of the candidates trying to fill it, however they get to “vote their gut” each year because they have to fill out the whole ballot, even if they just came to vote for the national level positions. Maybe just having the option to pass on voting for positions or issues is the best solution.

  • Tanith

    “To make real progress in cutting the deficit, Americans will have to decide which tax hikes they can stomach and which services they can live without.”

    This is actually incorrect. If we do nothing–that is, let the Bush tax cuts expire–we can shrink the deficit substantially. (See digby on “The Case for Gridlock” http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/first-things-first-do-nothing.html)

  • Liz

    Uh, no. No, actually they don’t.

  • Elizabeth

    Couldn’t we say that there have been enough precedences set to evaluate how well informed someone is, to see how qualified they are to vote? Questions, perhaps, on the main themes set in our Federal Constitution, and the basics of our legislative process? Same for candidacies, if you do not understand the ideal of separation of church and state, you should not be allowed to hold a public office. Not necessarily opinions, that way, just facts. Fact is: there is a call for the separation of church and state in the Constitution. If you do not understand that, your judgment is flawed. Comprende? That way, you keep crazies from running for office.

  • http://flavors.me/Audiovore Audiovore

    Well, I’ve never heard forcing people to completely fill out a ballot, and it is ridiculous(what if you miss/forget one?!). Its not require here in WA, and I abstain from all non contested positions. In a voting required scenario, I would imagine you just have to go to the poll station, pick up your ballot, and you can then put it right in the box blank(but I am not completely aware how countries actually have it enforced). Abstention is a vote, but it has to be intentional, and not cause you’d rather have a Big Mac™.

  • JB

    Those numbers aren’t Brennan’s. They are the reporter who wrote the story’s numbers.

  • guest

    If ignorant voting is the American way, then the American way is lousy.

  • Guest

    the reference was to public pensions, (for retired state and federal employees). Before you consider that to be waste, keep in mind that most of them are not eligible for social security.

  • http://www.facebook.com/twangmaster Sam Hedrick

    I understand what you’re saying, John, but in truth measurable knowledge is only measurable if the facts are an agreed upon quantity. As it stands, you will not convince a voter, for example, that regulation of our industries and corporations is necessary due to the inherent greed built into the capitalist system. In point of fact, you won’t be able to establish as a fact that either greed is inherent in the system or that greed, in fact, is bad. Because of the nature of politics and polemics, perception IS the same as reality. There is too much opinion involved to even establish a base of reality. As such, trying to say that voters need to be more informed simply isn’t realistic. We have what otherwise seem to be intelligent individuals pontificating on issues and positions that strike me as complete madness, yet some are widely held as accurate by the voting public. I, too, agree you can’t compare NPR to Fox, but to those who swear by Fox they see NPR as a propaganda tool of the left. My point is that where the voting public sits, perception is reality and to suggest that a voter must accept what you or I know are facts is tantamount to telling a religious person they must realize their faith is misplaced.
    The only way we can get a more highly informed voter base is by getting more highly informed voters who traditionally don’t vote to the polls. As Americans we have not the right, but the responsibility to vote and suggesting those who don’t agree with what we see as facts should “become informed” before voting is impractical if not unconstitutional- certainly un-American.

  • http://www.facebook.com/twangmaster Sam Hedrick

    So who would you suggest be the arbitrator that qualifies if someone is informed enough, or knows the candidates well enough to vote? Beyond the basic, I find it ridiculous that NPR included such obviously rhetorical dialogue here.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QFHG5YDV35I5W6SPNO3F5KD67Y Christopher

    But he says the same thing. He doesn’t say we should not allow the ignorant to vote, for precisely that reason. Did you read the last few paragraphs? He is beginning to be more sympathic but admits all the problems and says it probably can’t be done.

    He is only pointing out a problem in society, so we can begin discussing solutions.

  • 999jmh

    You are aware that all those numbers at the start are not accurate and also not from Brennan, right?

  • ruralmom

    Education and factual reporting are the keys to an informed voting public. More people get their news through innuendo and entertainment media like the Colbert Report. As a nation, fewer people follow news – printed, visual or online, as a regular part of their day. Fewer high schools require students to study civics. We graduate only 74% of our high school students, and an even lower percentage are truly “literate”. I agree that misinformed voters are dangerous, but the remedy lies in education, not limiting access to the voting booth.

  • Guest 5

    My god what an arrogant, intellectual, pure unadulterated nerd, Is this Guy!?
    If I’m drunk and capable of getting into the booth with whatever is needed to prove whatever I will vote and be damned to the prig.
    I see no Justice or point either in preventing prison inmates from voting. They are paying for thier sin by being in prison, thats enough.
    Also if a so called Lunatic asylum inmate can do the necessary to Vote without assistance, then for me they can vote as well.
    Why well you see it was me who was the Village idiot who came accross a bunch of engineers and very intelligent village officials, police, fire brigade all pondering how to solve the problem when a truck has got stuck under a Railway arch!
    I sat and watched for 2/3 hours and had to start laughing uncontrollably as the answer was simple. The local cop who had thrown me in jail more times than I can, or he can count, came up and said why are you laughing at us. I said its simple let the tyres down. Buy my superior intelligent professor might want to deny me my vote as well. It him thats Immoral!!
    Regards,
    Guest 5.

  • Guest 5

    My god what an arrogant, intellectual, pure unadulterated nerd, Is this Guy!?
    If I’m drunk and capable of getting into the booth with whatever is needed to prove whatever I will vote and be damned to the prig.
    I see no Justice or point either in preventing prison inmates from voting. They are paying for thier sin by being in prison, thats enough.
    Also if a so called Lunatic asylum inmate can do the necessary to Vote without assistance, then for me they can vote as well.
    Why well you see it was me who was the Village idiot who came accross a bunch of engineers and very intelligent village officials, police, fire brigade all pondering how to solve the problem when a truck has got stuck under a Railway arch!
    I sat and watched for 2/3 hours and had to start laughing uncontrollably as the answer was simple. The local cop who had thrown me in jail more times than I can, or he can count, came up and said why are you laughing at us. I said its simple let the tyres down. Buy my superior intelligent professor might want to deny me my vote as well. It him thats Immoral!!
    Regards,
    Guest 5.

  • Guest 5

    My god what an arrogant, intellectual, pure unadulterated nerd, Is this Guy!?
    If I’m drunk and capable of getting into the booth with whatever is needed to prove whatever I will vote and be damned to the prig.
    I see no Justice or point either in preventing prison inmates from voting. They are paying for thier sin by being in prison, thats enough.
    Also if a so called Lunatic asylum inmate can do the necessary to Vote without assistance, then for me they can vote as well.
    Why well you see it was me who was the Village idiot who came accross a bunch of engineers and very intelligent village officials, police, fire brigade all pondering how to solve the problem when a truck has got stuck under a Railway arch!
    I sat and watched for 2/3 hours and had to start laughing uncontrollably as the answer was simple. The local cop who had thrown me in jail more times than I can, or he can count, came up and said why are you laughing at us. I said its simple let the tyres down. Buy my superior intelligent professor might want to deny me my vote as well. It him thats Immoral!!
    Regards,
    Guest 5.

  • diffrunt

    Politics is state of the art misinformation

  • Patric Hardy

    I think you make a very important point about the straight party lever and I agree it should be outlawed. The framers could not have imagined that anyone would think this is a good idea. However, they did severely limit who could vote and for a long time, the President was the person who got tlhe most popular votes and the Vice President was the person – almost always from another party – who got the second largest number of votes. The country expected them to work together and they did – as opposed to the endless petty partisan bickering we have today.
    Now we have politicians who pass laws giving themselves automatic COLA salary increases so they don’t have to vote on it, very hefty pensions even for those who commit felonies and go to prison plus perks we don’t even know about. Civics has not been taught in schools in a long time so perhaps we should not be surprised that we are so ignorant of how our govt works.
    I am now 60 years old and I would go further – I now think most Americans – especially, I am sad to say, the young, are simply too ignorant to be allowed to vote. In simple terms, I would say America is now too stupid to be a democracy – we need a benovelent dictator as we begin our decline to a post-industrial, post-imperial country. The only thing exceptional about us was our arrogance.
    PS: The PRC is a political party in the country of Mexico – not in the state of New Mexico. It continues to amaze me how many Anglos here have no idea how NM entered the union. As one of my neighbors says, “We stole it, fair and square.” But so many want ‘those illegal Mexicans’ deported and fined – for seeking a better life like my grandparents. The Native Americans live in incredible poverty and squalor – that other minorities could not even imagine. What would happen if we had a federal agency – completely corrupt and totally incomptent – named “The Bureau of Negro Affairs”? I continue to see men with loaded guns in restaurants – are they concerned the waitress will get their order wrong?

    Out here in the still wild west, we anglos should be glad the Native Americans haven’t gotten together with the Mexicans and decided to slit our throats in our sleep – as we did to them and in god’s name, of course.

  • Patric Hardy

    I think you make a very important point about the straight party lever and I agree it should be outlawed. The framers could not have imagined that anyone would think this is a good idea. However, they did severely limit who could vote and for a long time, the President was the person who got tlhe most popular votes and the Vice President was the person – almost always from another party – who got the second largest number of votes. The country expected them to work together and they did – as opposed to the endless petty partisan bickering we have today.
    Now we have politicians who pass laws giving themselves automatic COLA salary increases so they don’t have to vote on it, very hefty pensions even for those who commit felonies and go to prison plus perks we don’t even know about. Civics has not been taught in schools in a long time so perhaps we should not be surprised that we are so ignorant of how our govt works.
    I am now 60 years old and I would go further – I now think most Americans – especially, I am sad to say, the young, are simply too ignorant to be allowed to vote. In simple terms, I would say America is now too stupid to be a democracy – we need a benovelent dictator as we begin our decline to a post-industrial, post-imperial country. The only thing exceptional about us was our arrogance.
    PS: The PRC is a political party in the country of Mexico – not in the state of New Mexico. It continues to amaze me how many Anglos here have no idea how NM entered the union. As one of my neighbors says, “We stole it, fair and square.” But so many want ‘those illegal Mexicans’ deported and fined – for seeking a better life like my grandparents. The Native Americans live in incredible poverty and squalor – that other minorities could not even imagine. What would happen if we had a federal agency – completely corrupt and totally incomptent – named “The Bureau of Negro Affairs”? I continue to see men with loaded guns in restaurants – are they concerned the waitress will get their order wrong?

    Out here in the still wild west, we anglos should be glad the Native Americans haven’t gotten together with the Mexicans and decided to slit our throats in our sleep – as we did to them and in god’s name, of course.

  • SG

    I agree one hundred percent that today’s voters are misinformed, ignorant people. 
    But voting is THE key right in a democracy. A small fraction of educated people can’t decide for everyone. 
    Taking AWAY rights is not the answer either. 

    The best (and really, the only fair) thing we can do is create more/better civics education. If we start taking civics seriously, there is still hope for American politics:)

  • SG

    I agree one hundred percent that today’s voters are misinformed, ignorant people. 
    But voting is THE key right in a democracy. A small fraction of educated people can’t decide for everyone. 
    Taking AWAY rights is not the answer either. 

    The best (and really, the only fair) thing we can do is create more/better civics education. If we start taking civics seriously, there is still hope for American politics:)

  • Leeb

    test comment

  • http://do-not-vote.com/ Randy B

    I love this and wish I had seen it sooner.  This is exactly how we feel. 

  • http://do-not-vote.com/ Randy B

    I love this and wish I had seen it sooner.  This is exactly how we feel. 

  • Randy B

    See if you can pass some basic civics information here:  http://do-not-vote.com

  • Randy B

    See if you can pass some basic civics information here:  http://do-not-vote.com

  • Jerry33

    I think more so we need to figure out how we can help folks including maybe this author to see that all things are connected including each other whether we like it or not.  So that burger for example is doing a lot more than impacting one man’s belly, it’s polluting and using up water and food to feed animals.  

    A vote for someone who has a good environmental record, that is a candidate who protects our air and water supply and as such saves us money from having to clean it in the future, that’s a good vote; check out LCV.org- it’s the Dems who typically vote for clean air, children and seniors so I am a Democrat.  I work to end suffering, I work for peace.

    Biggest problem in voter system right now if that politicians can be bought by the highest bidder, the corporation, person only in rights not in conscience. 

  • Facts matter

    People should be given tests before they are allowed to vote. Voting is far too important to allow anyone to just waltz in and pick whomever appeals to them based on emotion.

    Just give people the same types of citizenship tests that immigrants are given who want to be a citizen; if you don’t know a certain amount, then I’m afraid you’re not fit to vote.

  • http://www.facebook.com/djchangbang Carlitos Corcho

    Finally someone with a brain! I agree, how about a very simple test like a one question test. Make it so simple a child could understand it. The tests would be based on The Constitution & The Bill Of Rights. And you can take this test as many times as possible for free! Every citizen would do best to know the law of The Land before they can vote. I agree voting with no knowledge of the qualifications, is like having people that have no clue what the qualifications of a surgeon is to tell the hospital who they should hire! No wonder we got Butchers running this place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/djchangbang Carlitos Corcho

    thats not true, Dems are not always looking for the people. Certain Dems not all, they were a party of Pro-Slavery once also. Eliminate Political Parties, have people people vote according to their own conscience. We would de best with candidates not affiliated to a political party. There are also more issues than just the environment, so what to do if that candidate has a horrible track record with foreign relations, or the economy? Hilarious it was a Dem that put into the USDA, FDA more people related to the same companies that destroy the environment. I really dont see the logic in any of this political system here in America anymore.

  • http://www.facebook.com/djchangbang Carlitos Corcho

    good luck with that the kids are gonna sit in class and not listen, Ive been in Civics class and it was boring. Very few people are gonna sit in a civics class and learn if that was the case we would not be in this mess right now. People are more interested in reality tv, LOL

  • http://www.facebook.com/djchangbang Carlitos Corcho

    What are the 3 Branches of Government? I mean if you cant answer that in 1 second then maybe that is why we got Butchers running this country.

  • http://www.facebook.com/djchangbang Carlitos Corcho

    its not limited access, you dont get it. its actually encouraging people that want to vote to learn! if you learn you vote, how is that so complicated. and it can be free for you to learn, I mean gee if you dont know what the Bill Of Rights is, why? I can tell you this I dont want someone voting that has no clue what the Bill Of Rights is, that will effect my life!

  • http://www.facebook.com/djchangbang Carlitos Corcho

    Man o man, pretty simple if you gonna vote know The Constitution & The Bill Of Rights. If not then you get what we got now, and there is nothing that is gonna change. Election time comes around everyone votes on their emotions, same ole same ole. Id rather have the well informed voting than the mis-informed, wanna see the results look at the comedy piece going up there in Congress.

  • http://www.facebook.com/djchangbang Carlitos Corcho

    Brennan is on the right track, he just does not give a good example on how to inform the voters. Its obvious there is no way anyone would be so informed on everything. The solution is 2 part not either this or that. One create a voting system where each voter must at least know The Constitution & The Bill Of Rights that is what everyone should equally be informed on. This can be part of the school curriculum or a private tutorial online or where ever. We can make it so simple for anyone to pass this test, one simple question like what are the first 10 amendments to the Bill of Rights? why would that be so bad, at least the people voting number one know their rights, and 2 when they vote they will have an ideal as to who really represent Freedom. Plus it would encourage people to learn more, and everyone equally would have access to learning.

  • http://www.facebook.com/djchangbang Carlitos Corcho

    Well informed on The Constitution & The Bill Of Rights of the land. Everyone would do best to be informed on that to vote! Wish Brennan would have simplified it more in his analysis. I for sure dont want some emotionally driven voter that has no clue what the Bill Of Rights is voting!

  • http://www.facebook.com/djchangbang Carlitos Corcho

    Issues change so impossible to be well informed on all issues, the Constitution & The Bill Of Rights are the same and dont change like issues we can at least be well informed on that to vote. If you live in America then you agree with Law Of The Land otherwise you would be in another country. So why not have everyone who wants to vote learn the laws that every one in office has to follow? Its not really all that hard to learn those documents. I mean gee people spend hours on end on Facebook, Wikis, blogs, watching reality TV sucking up all the info on there. Pretty simple you wanna vote then prove you know what the Law is here, then maybe then maybe we might have some one actually representing Liberty here for once. But bottomline are the people that are motivated to vote out of emotion at all interested in taking some time to read the Bill Of Rights which only takes like 5 minutes? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/djchangbang Carlitos Corcho

    As someone who has studied in the University level you would not get your degree without you being able to qualify for it. I say equal access to education on the Constitution & The Bill Of Rights for all! A simple test on the Law of The Land to show the people that you are qualified to vote and not infringe on anothers right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

  • Eober

    I agree that most of the voting public is poorly informed about politics and have often thought that at least some segment of the population should be restricted from voting.  I have, however, come to the conclusion that restricting voting would be a bad idea.  The problem with restricting voting comes from the need to set criteria for voting.  Who chooses the criteria?  Even basic civics questions do not guarantee an informed voter.   Someone can know all of the ins and outs of our constitution without knowing anything about the problems of today.  So, if we are to select voters based on their knowledge of current politics, who decides what are and are not relevant issues?

  • Boboe

    Normal people understand that skin color doesn’t equate to ignorance. Only ignorance is ignorance. You can measure ignorance (or lack of it) without considering other factors. The claim that literacy tests are racist is a convenient excuse only believed by the — you guessed it — ignorant.

    It’s also ignorant to call our form a government a democracy. It’s not. We’re a Constitutional Republic. If you don’t know this, you’re too ignorant to vote.

  • Gabby Edelbrock

    i believe unicorns are people too and they should not be discriminated against. you all just need to leave them alone!

  • Lyn Dalton

    How about taking time to simply educate all on HOW, and

    WHY, to do for people without anything versus
    people with everything…SIMPLY, and UNCOMPLICATED.
    THANK YOU.,

  • Van

    Personally I believe that voters should have a basic knowledge of political and economic philosophies as well as a basic understanding of logic and reasoning. I would propose and support the establishment of a program of study developed by a panel of university-level educators including a survey of political philosophies and systems (democracy, autocracy, aristocracy-the original American system, plutocracy and libertarianism).. Also including a course covering basic economic theories and systems such as free-market theory, and Keynesian economics and the Austrian school of economics. I hardly feel that voters who do not know the difference between Keynesian and Austrian economics are qualified to vote intelligently.

    However I would still allow ignorant people to vote, as it would not be politically feasible to stop them. What I would propose is that people who complete the above program be given 2 extra votes. Maybe after the economic collapse which will be caused by ignorant, short-sighted voters voting themselves benefits and not voting for revenues to pay for them, this might be more politically viable.

  • Van

    The following is an article that that I that originally appeared on Activist Post which proposes a way to reform the system:

    Once again this past election I could not find a candidate that I could whole-heartedly support. If I voted for a non-major party candidate (in my case, the Libertarian Party candidate), I ran the risk of contributing to the election of my least-favored major-party candidate. There is an obvious solution to this dilemma. I am referring to preferential or ranked-choice voting.

    A version called instant runoff has been used in parts of the United States and in a number of other countries. In this system, if no candidate receives a majority of first choices, then the candidate with the least number of first-choice votes is eliminated and his/her second choice receives his/her vote. This continues until one candidate has a majority.

    The problem with this system is that it makes it nearly impossible for a non-major party candidate to win in a three-party contest. In my opinion, an ideal system would provide at least some chance for a non-major party candidate to win. Two viable parties are not enough to provide a decent variety of choices. In my opinion, a minimum of four to five parties would be needed in order to cover at least many of the possible combinations of views on important issues and political philosophies.

    A relatively simple and straightforward way of implementing ranked-choice voting that would, I think, give parties other than the predominant two more of a chance of winning would start by counting first choices. If one candidate has a majority of first place rankings, then that candidate would be the winner. If no candidate has a majority of first choices, then all first and second choices would be totaled. If a candidate achieves a majority of this total number, then that candidate would be the winner. If this does not produce a winner, then the third place choices would be added in. This process would continue until a candidate achieves a majority or until all choices are counted. If this process does not produce a winner, then the instant runoff could be used. If a voter does not rank all the candidates, those candidates not ranked would each receive a proportionate fraction of a vote in each subsequent round of tabulation.

    This would eliminate the expense of runoff elections and still produce a winner with majority support at some level. There could be other desirable effects from having more choice of candidates. There has been much comment in recent years that American politics has become overly polarized. I would think that the existence of three or more viable candidates would make for a more wide-ranging debate and for a more thorough discussion of the issues, and maybe even less polarization. With just two viable parties there is an incentive to try to appeal to the middle and to blur stands on issues rather than to have a deep, more precise, thorough and thoughtful discussion of issues. In order to make intelligent, thoughtful decisions on issues, clarity is desirable, rather than the blurring of thought which can occur with just two candidates.

    Having more than two choices could produce some candidates who would be less prone to pander to voters’ preconceived opinions since they do not have to get a majority of first choices to be viable, and instead attempt to promote and educate voters about their own considered viewpoints. In other words, more leadership and less self-serving pandering could possibly be encouraged. Wouldn’t it be great if elections could be educational opportunities where voters learned about different political and economic philosophies and their implications for current issues? This may seem naively idealistic, but I think that it would be desirable for the electoral system to at least make this possible. Now elections are more about pandering, vote buying and an appeal more to the voter’s short-term self-interest than to a rational concern with the long-term greater good. Smaller parties would have more opportunity to grow over time, as they educate the voting public about their ideas.

    This would entail more immediate cost to set up. Voting machines would have to be programmed to do the necessary tabulations. Actual calculation of the result would have to be done at a central location. If the present machines could not be programmed to do the job, new machines would have to be bought. A voter education program would be needed in order to prevent too much voter confusion with the new system. Much less resources on voter education would be needed in subsequent elections as voters become familiar with the new system. Personally I think that the benefits to our republic would outweigh the costs.

    For this to happen, the media would need to be more open to including non-major party candidates in their coverage, and debate sponsors would have to be more inclusive in allowing parties into debates. The emphasis should be on maximum practical inclusiveness not on excluding parties. I think that it is really unfair not to include parties which are on the ballot in the overwhelming majority of states (such the Libertarian Party-49 states and the Green Party-44 states). Would it be too cumbersome to have 4 debate participants? I would think not. Do the sponsors believe that the average voter’s attention span is too limited to consider more than two points of view? I say, give the voters the benefit of the doubt.

    One major obstacle to greater voter choice is the opposition of the 2 major parties through their control of the Commission on Presidential Debates which was established in 1988. The debates prior to 1988 were hosted by the League of Women Voters. In 1988 it withdrew, making this statement: “the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter”. That year the campaigns of George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis met secretly to limit who could sit in the audience, and who would serve as panelists, and they also abolished follow-up questions. (In 1984 nearly 100 proposed panelists had been vetoed jointly by the Republicans and Democrats.)

    Starting in 1988 the debates and the information that the public is allowed to have through the debates has been overtly controlled by the 2 major parties, a fox-guarding-the-hen-house type of situation. For example after Ross Perot got 19 percent of the vote in 1992, the foxes decided in 1996 that he was too much of a threat and excluded him from the debates, thus perhaps ending the national threat to them of the Reform Party for good. If enough people know about this control and protest perhaps the debates would be forced to be more inclusive. This year, three debate sponsors dropped their support for the debates over the exclusion of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.[4]

    It is truly regrettable that the voters are for all practical purposes limited to a choice between only two viable political parties due to the nature of the electoral system. Most people seem to feel that if they vote for a candidate outside of the two major parties that they are throwing away their vote and possibly contributing to the victory of the major-party candidate that they like least. Changes need to be made.

  • http://www.facebook.com/suzanna.lytle Suzanna Lytle

    what about all the drop outs that are voting that either didnt show up for the class or never even made it to the year in high school to take it in the first place.

  • jake

    Not everyone should vote. If a person doesn’t have moderate knowledge of economics, history, government structure, international relations, geopolitics, science, technology, domestic and international security, business, physiology and sociology, and current events, then they are definitely not fit to vote.
    All of these subjects are an intricate part of the 21st century. Without them it is impossible to make informed decisions.
    There should absolutely be a literacy test (taken once), a general test on the subjects above (taken every 5-10 years) and a test on current events (test right on the ballot so it is taken every time a person votes).
    Also to avoid the discrimination like what happened under the jim crow laws, all the tests would be the same nation wide (I figure if a person has the motivation to cheat then they probably had the motivation to research the candidates).

  • Dustin Kick

    Wow, that really is elitism at its highest. *If you aren’t educated well enough you shouldn’t have a say, especially if you want to vote for someone that sounds like they might get you an education.* Miss a meeting? Keep silent forever while we make up news stories for you.