April 15th, 2011 - Open Knowledge
Apr. 15th, 2011
Should ignorant people be allowed to vote?
A provocative question for sure; however, I'm not bringing it up for shock value, but rather to give us all pause.
If I were to ask you to ingest an unknown medicine from someone who knew nothing about the medical field, you probably wouldn't do it. And I doubt many of us would feel comfortable as a shareholder in a company that asked people who knew nothing about business to hire its next CEO?
Yet we all know people who gleefully admit they know nothing about politics, don't have time to find out what the current issues are or even know how the government works, but go out and vote. Want to know why it seems Washington is run by a bunch of idiots? Blame this hiccup in our political system for starters. What's a solution? Weed out some of the ignorant by making people who want to vote first pass a test modeled on the one given to those who want to become citizens.
In an effort to win over ignorant voters, political campaigns are no longer targeting the movable middle as much as the easily misled. Instead of intelligent debates about important topics such as health care reform and cash-strapped states, we have an exchange of easy to remember catchphrases such as "Obamacare" and "War on Unions" -- all in the race to pander to people who can't explain what Congress does.
Or have a firm grasp of how tax dollars are spent.
In a recent CNN poll, more than a third of the people questioned wanted to see cuts in military spending, which is a good debate to have. The problem is the poll also revealed most Americans think the military takes up 30 percent of the budget when in reality it's 19 percent. If we don't know how much money is being spent, how can we intelligently say it's too much? And what to make of the 20 percent of folks polled who believe public broadcasting represents 10 percent of the budget, when it's more like a 10th of 1 percent?
I think voting tests would make a marginal improvement in election outcomes. But how do you develop a constituency for such an improvement? A lot of interest groups rely upon voter ignorance for their livelihood.
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