WARNING: Elitist sentiments ahead!
In contrast with a recent editorial I’ve read in The Nation, I’d like to suggest that we need to improve the quality, not quantity of people voting.
I know, this is heresy, suggesting that perhaps, just maybe, we should NOT be pleading for some people to vote… especially coming from a relatively left-of-center that I am. However, a recent push for an “Election Day Voter Registration” initiative (“EDR”) seems rather misguided to me.
My belief is that if you can’t plan ahead a couple of weeks to vote, then you aren’t serious enough about voting to begin with and the loss of your vote isn’t much worth crying over. EDR advocates argue that the registration processes can be cumbersome and confusing, but again… I feel that if you can’t figure out how to write your name and address on a form or two, you shouldn’t be voting. It reminds me of an entertaining (and perhaps apocryphal) Southwest Airlines story in which the flight attendants quip while demonstrating how to fasten a seat belt, “…but if you don’t already know how to fasten a seatbelt, perhaps you shouldn’t be flying.”
Do we really WANT to make voting more convenient? Shouldn’t there be some expectation of preparation, study, understanding of the candidates and their (actual) positions? I realize that any suggestion of a voting “test” smacks of racist intent, which indeed was case with earlier tests. But is it so wrong to desire voters to have at least a very basic understanding of Election Day propositions beyond what’s written on bumper stickers?
EDR advocates have suggested that their proposal is a huge cure for apathetic voter turnout on Election Day. Could it be, however, that people are staying away from the polls because they are disgusted by American politics and feel their vote really doesn’t matter? How would EDR get at the root of this disenchantment?
“We have to lower the barriers to voting every way we can,” insists Rob McKay, a major backer of EDR. I respectfully disagree. I’d rather spend the time, money, and energy on making our current voters more informed and encouraging more people to prepare ahead of time to be informed and active voters.
Quality, not quantity. What a radical concept 😉