Should just anyone be allowed to vote?

May 24, 2008 4:18am CST
Democracy as it's currently practiced is based on the idea that once someone gets to some arbitrary age (18 in Britain) then they're qualified to take part in the political process without any other qualifications. Therefore the vote of an illiterate junkie who has spent his life on the dole and supports his habit through petty crime is worth just as much as that of a doctor or an entrepreneur. Do you think that's the right way to do it, or do you think it might result in better government if the franchise was restricted in some way? It's certainly possible to imagine alternatives: In Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" a citizen had to have completed a term of voluntary military service and been honourably discharged before they could vote. The theory was that volunteering for the military showed a sense of responsibility in relation to being willing to put yourself in harm's way to defend your country. Another idea I've heard about is to restrict voting to people who pay tax and don't derive their income from taxation (whether through welfare payments or by working for the government). That way, taxpayers have the biggest say in how taxpayers' money is spent. A literacy test is an obvious option. If you are unable to read, you can't read the papers or internet websites, so you don't have access to the same level of information and debate, therefore how can you vote intelligently? There are other options, and I'm not advocating a particular system, I'm just open to new ideas? What do you think? Is the current system best, or would the electoral process be improved by having some kind of qualification, either one of the above or something else?
5 people like this
10 responses
@lvaldean (1612)
• United States
24 May 08
In the US we already exlude voters through the use of the Electoral College which can and has in the past ignored the will of the people. We also of course have proven that the electronic voting machines can be tampered with, another way to undermine the will of the people. Finally, the US Supreme Court can seat a US President against the will of the people, current US President has been serving without a clear majority of the vote and against the will of the people. So I would much rather have a inclusive democracy. One that assures all members of society the right and priviledge of voting for elected officials. The purpose of democracy is to include all members and make possible the voice of the people in the election of public officials. Anything less than full inclusion creates an elitist society that does not represent the entire spectrum of its members. My desire would be to eliminate the Electoral College in the US, it is no longer necessary nor does it serve any purpose other than to undermine the will of the people. I would like to see voting become easier rather than more difficult and would like to see audits performed randomly on voting results. The only criteria I want on who can vote is Identification and proof of citizenship. Personally I believe that felons after they have served their time should have their rights to vote restored, this is a different issue.
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
24 May 08
Hello Ivaldean, You have stated: "... current US President has been serving without a clear majority of the vote and against the will of the people." Below are the actual numbers relating to Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election results, as compared to George W. Bush's 2004 re-election results. Who garnered the mandate? And, who didn't? Bill Clinton didn't even garner a simple majority with his re-election. Meaning that he didn't even get 50% of the vote, let alone the 50.01% necessary to signal the most basic mandate. ___________________________________________________________ "1996 Presidential General Election Results William Clinton Albert Gore Jr. Democratic 47,400,125 (total votes) 49.23% (% of the votes cast) 70.4% (total % of the electoral college votes) Robert Dole Jack Kemp Republican 39,198,755 (total votes) 40.72% (% of the votes cast) 29.6% (total % of the electoral college votes) ___________________________________________________________ 2004 Presidential General Election Results George W. Bush Richard Cheney Republican 62,040,610 (total votes cast) 50.73% (% of the votes cast) 53.2% (total % of the electoral college votes) John Kerry John Edwards Democratic 59,028,439 (total votes cast) 48.27% (% of the votes cast) 46.7% (total % of the electoral college votes) ___________________________________________________________ Now, to address your claim that the Electoral College allows for inequity and iniquity. Let us consider the 2000 Bush/Gore race: Al Gore received 51,003,926 total votes. Without the Electoral College, less than 20% of the states would be positioned to elect every President. That would leave over 80% of the states without a voice in our electoral process. How would that be fair? The year 2000 total votes from just the nine (9) states listed below equals 51,939,907. Which is more than the total number of votes cast to give Al Gore the 'popular' vote win. This demonstrates the very reason why our Founding Fathers were wise enough to institute a Representative Democracy, rather than a Democracy by plurality! Let us remember that we are the United States of America, which implies equality among all 50 states. The Electoral College remains a necessary 'fail-safe' to insure that middle-America, and small states have an equal say in our choice for President. California - 10,965,856 votes Florida - 5,963,110 votes Illinois - 4,742,123 Michigan - 4,232,711 New Jersey - 3,187,226 New York - 6,822,668 Ohio - 4,705,457 Pennsylvania - 4,913,119 Texas - 6,407,637 I expect that you, or another member will refute the logic of the Electoral College by claiming that the smaller states shouldn't have an equal say in our Presidential choice, because fewer people live in those states. In an effort to head that argument off at the pass, I will remind us all that the distribution of representation based on population is clearly outlined in the U.S. Constitution. That respect for plurality is provided by way of the district breakdown for the House of Representatives -- who both control the national purse-strings and are endowed with the power to override a the will of a President.
1 person likes this
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
24 May 08
Oops! Silly me, I forgot to 'source' my statistics. http://www.uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/
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@lvaldean (1612)
• United States
24 May 08
Bill Clinton received the mandate in each of his elections by recieving the majority of the votes cast. Obviously receiving 50.01% of the vote is difficult when there are more than two people that mandate is harder to achieve. George Bush received the election in both 2000 and 2004 but not the mandate as there were several states where the results were disputed including Ohio and Florida. 2000 Election - Bush: popular count 50,456,022 percent 47.87% Electoral 271 Gore: popular count 50,999,897 percent 48.38% Electoral 266 This is the one you left off by the way. No one is disputing your numbers, simply the idea that our current seated president achieved them legally or fairly. As to the Electoral College being necessary any longer, it is not. Congress and Senate is representation based on States and demographics. The Presidency respresents all the people not the people based upon a mathematical framework of States and the demographics of those states. The Electoral College was originally designed to prevent non-land owning / illiterate members of society from having a hand or a say in government. This is no longer a viable or appropriate model. We should no longer be reliant upon a elitist model of government designed 200+ years ago. We have evolved socially and economy since that time. The Electoral College is one of the vestiges of a time when more than half the citizenship of this country were prevented by law from participation in government. This included women, slaves, indentured servants, non-land owners, and the illiterate. The Electoral College simply is a way to keep the power in the hands of the elite and away from the people.
1 person likes this
@gewcew23 (8011)
• United States
27 May 08
Let use say there is a cruise ship. In this cruise ship half of the people on board bought a ticket, the other half did not. The half that did not pay is on board because the other half paid for them. An arguement broke out between the two sides. The side that bought tickets wanted to go to the Bahamas while the group that did not pay wanted to go to the Virgin Islands. My question is which island should the tourist go to? Same with our respected countries should those that do not pay any taxes be able to tell those who do what to do? Of course not, the taxpayer class should not be subjects to the non-taxpayer class.
2 people like this
1 Jun 08
Cheers Gewcew, thanks for replying.
2 people like this
@anniepa (27238)
• United States
12 Jun 08
So someone who is disabled or on welfare temporarily due to no fault of their own or someone who is retired and doesn't receive enough to owe any taxes shouldn't have the right to vote? Why not just limit the right to vote to rich Republican business owners and be done with it? Annie
@susieq223 (3742)
• United States
8 Jun 08
Originally in the US only landowners were allowed to vote. (Only male landowners at that!) Of course, before the Civil War, were not considered people, so they didn't get to vote, either. Black males got to vote before women did!. Today, convicted felons cannot vote, even after they have paid the penalty for their crime. I think you make a good argument about illiteracy and people on welfare, etc., but once you start putting restrictions on voting, then someone who is deserving will be denied their opportunity to have a say in their government. For a democracy to work best, I think everyone should be given the opportunity to vote.
2 people like this
11 Jun 08
Thanks for responding, you made your point well.
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@mensab (4207)
• Philippines
24 May 08
i think there is a need to revisit the qualification of eligible voters in an election. this need is borne out o our disappointment and frustration on the current politics that we have. however, i still want to provide people with the freedom to choose and participate. the new scheme should be inclusionary rather than exclusionary. the task i think of those who want electoral reforms is to educate the electorate on the issues, rather than disenfranchised them.
25 May 08
Good answer. Thanks for replying. Raising people up to a higher level is always best. Something like a literacy test or Heinlein's Federal Service idea would be inclusive in the sense that if you can't read already you can take lessons (obviously it's harder as an adult, but not impossible) and under the system pracised in Starship Troopers anyone can volunteer for service and the military can't refuse them - even if the volunteer's completely unfit, they have to find a job for him to do. An interesting book, although I'm not sure it would actually result in better government.
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@urbandekay (18312)
25 May 08
Here in the home of modern democracy (UK, for those that don't know) it is clear that the notion of representative democracy is past it's sell by date. In an agrarian and industrial society man is too shackled to the chains of work to have time or energy to participate in the governance of the state. Hard physical labour prevents such. Now however, with a largely educated and informed populace a shift to participatory democracy is called for. Why? Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely. The history of the evolution of government is one of the distribution of power to a wider and wider mass. In the 11th Century the Catholic Church split from the Orthodox Church and the then Bishop of Rome declared himself Pope. He sought to weld power over the Catholic Countries of Western Europe. At Runnymead the nobility forced the king to sign Magna Carta, reducing the power of the king and empowering them Henry the V111 in establishing the Church of England gained independence from Rome. During the Crusades, the emergent merchant class used the debt owed them by the nobility to extract greater power. Numerous peasants revolts and regicides sought to distribute power further and led to the setting up of the first modern elected parliament. Those heroic men and women of the labour movement and female suffrage movements further distributed power. Those that now weld power, MPs, Civil Servants and the Media have been shown to be corrupt. The answer to this is further distribution of power. Furthermore, a participatory democracy engenders a greater degree of responsibility in the citizen, problems in society are no longer just the fault of 'them' but of 'us.' all the best urban
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25 May 08
Thanks for the reply, Urban, very interesting. So do you think the electorate would be likely to be more responsible and take the time to research the issues if we went over to a more referendum-based system like the Swiss have? I can see the logic there. Certainly I believe the government shouldn't be able to make constitutional changes without a referendum.
@urbandekay (18312)
25 May 08
Yes, treat people like children and expect them to behave as children. I think it was Thoreau who said, "If you want your kids feet to stay on the ground better put a little weight on their shoulders." all the best urban
1 person likes this
25 May 08
Cheers Urban, I like your thought processes. You sound very much like a libertarian, would that be the case?
@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
24 May 08
Hello Citizen_Stuart, I have long shared your concern over the 'quality of' versus the 'quantity of' votes in political elections. After considerable thought on the subject, it is my conclusion that a simple, mandator test measuring a voter's comprehension of basic Civics, and current events would provide the much needed protection from uninformed, or underinformed voters. As I envision it, the test would be included on every ballot submitted by voters. If the test is left blank, or if an established pass rate is not achieved, the vote would not count toward the election results. While I'm sure this would cause a great clamor among the constituency, the fact of the matter is that with every right comes a responsibility. In the case of elections, it should be incumbent upon the voter to have a basic understanding of the government that he or she is expecting to affect. For example: I envision such a test in the USA being as short as 10 or 15 questions, asking such things as: - Who is the current Secretary of State? - What nation did the USA fight against in its quest for independence? - How long is the election term for a member of the House of Representatives? - How long is the election term for a member of the U.S. Senate? - How long is the term for a Supreme Court Justice? - How often are elections held for Supreme Court Justices? - Which branch of the United States Federal Government provides for the respect of the 'will of the people' from across the nation? - Which branch of the United States Federal Government provides for the respect for equality among the 50 equal states? - Which Amendment to the U.S. Constitution empowers the citizens of the United States to legally remove a corrupted government? - Does the 'separation of church and state' clause provide to the citizens the freedom of religion, or the freedom from religion? While the answers to these questions may seem blatanly obvious to the person who would seek out a discussion such as this one, I am absolutely confident that the results of such a test would be no less than shocking!
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@lvaldean (1612)
• United States
24 May 08
The only test is citizenship and ability to cast the ballot. There is not other test required. Sorry elitism of any kind including literacy, education, ability to stay current on events (some people must work 2 and 3 jobs just to keep food on the table), income; elitism of any kind is not a test of citizenship or of right to cast a vote.
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@ladyluna (7004)
• United States
25 May 08
Hello Ivaldene, (Quote - Ivaldene) "The only test is citizenship and ability to cast the ballot. There is not other test required." Your statement is wholly inaccurate, as there are other 'tests' or requirements to meet eligibility to vote. - One must be 18 years of age to be legally eligible to cast a vote, and be able to prove it. - One must be legally registered to vote. - One must provide accurate voter registration information, under penalty of perjury, in order to be eligible to vote. - One must pledge to only cast their vote once per election. - One must be free of felony conviction(s) to be legally eligible to cast a vote. - In many states, my own included, one must be visibly sober, to the election judge(s), to be eligible to legally cast a vote. - And, of course, one must meet the legal requirements for citizenship in order to legally cast a vote. Since you brought up employment ("some people must work 2 and 3 jobs...), there are a great many conditions, requirements, or tests for gainful employment. Is deciding the course of the nation any less important than being able to prove one's qualifications in the pursuit of gainful employ? I should think not! There is nothing elitist about suggesting a mandatory, basic test of civic competency as a prerequisite for voter eligibility. Since every citizen is empowered to make the choice to be an 'informed voter', or not. Your case that literacy and education requirement are elements of elitism, borders on the silly -- as every citizen of this nation is not only offered, but required to achieve a minimum education. Our Constitution established requirements for: citizenship, the right to vote, minimum qualifications necessary to run for the House, Senate, and the Presidency. Moreover, through the course of the history of this nation, the U.S. Code has further defined, expanded or established other requirements to the privileges outlined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. So, adding an additional requirement of civic competency has a long history of precedent before it. While one might be tempted to argue against the logic of additional requirements to the fundamental right to vote, the Constitution clearly states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people." Which means that, without question, the States have the right to promote additional requirements to our rights, as does the federal government, by way of the amendment process. I will reiterate: Every right or priviledge carries with it a responsibility. The people are empowered to further define, amend, or establish additional requirements in the effort to define those responsibilities.
1 person likes this
25 May 08
Thanks for the interesting responses. It seems to me that one difficulty with a civics test is setting it at the right level of difficulty so that you had to keep yourself reasonably well-informed to pass, but not so difficult that only professors or political fanatics would have a chance! I think the point that some people are having to work all hours to make ends meet is fair enough. It's not a simple issue.
1 person likes this
@anniepa (27238)
• United States
12 Jun 08
What an excellent question and great post! It's something I've been asking myself for years now, should just anyone be allowed to vote just because they've reached a certain age and they happen to be a U.S. citizen and not a convicted felon? I'm not in favor of someone having to have been in the the military to vote, although the idea that the D1ck Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld would have been disallowed from voting would be a plus, and I also don't think anyone who works for the government or who is on either welfare or disability should be disqualified, but there should be some kind of literacy test and perhaps even a test like the one given to immigrants who become citizens. At the very least they should have some awareness of reality, based on some people who believe some of these crazy bulk e-mailings that are so prevalent these days. So, my short answer would be, no, just anyone should not be allowed to vote. Annie
1 person likes this
13 Jun 08
Cheers, thanks for replying. I've got to admit, it's an issue I don't really have a set opinion on.
@Hatley (164485)
• Garden Grove, California
25 May 08
I think the system we have here in the USA is just fine as it stands. what we really need are much better candidates from whom to choose. As for the illerate junkie what makes you think he is the kind who would vote. as far as literacy goes people who cannot read are not going to vote so forget that crap. our system will work if we are given good candidates who will really do what they all promise. as for someone on welfare okay perhaps that person will one day be off welfare and working so why should he or she not be able to vote. Our system is still a working system so why mess around with it.The United states is a democracy and all its citizens should be able to choose who we want to lead us not just the rich and the super educated,we all live here after all.
25 May 08
Thanks for the interesting comment. I personally think the two party system is too heavily entrenched in the USA, but that's a discussion for another time. I will say that I'm neither rich or super-educated (I wish I was) and I've spent a lot more time on the dole recently than I'd like, so don't think that I'm in favour of special privileges for the "upper class".
• India
24 May 08
age of 18 kid should be allowed to because to get the more no of vote the politician have lowered the age for voting from 21 to 18(india) but kid of these age take nussiance decision try to justify themselves by saying that if they can vote at 18 then they take there own decision.
25 May 08
Thanks for replying.
@myklj999 (18167)
24 May 08
"If you are unable to read, you can't read the papers or internet websites, so you don't have access to the same level of information and debate, therefore how can you vote intelligently?" I'm sorry, but this is one of the more idiotic statements I have ever read. If you trust all the information you get from newpapers and the internet, then I have qualms about you having enough serious informationb to vote. Just my personal opinion; which doesn't mean squat, so don't take offense.
25 May 08
It wasn't a statement, it was a question. Possibly badly-phrased, since what I should have written was "the same variety of information and debate" instead of "level". The point is not to trust one or two sources of information (ie TV, radio or your mates down the pub). Literacy gives you the ability to research the issues yourself - look up information on the net, read a few different newspapers, get down to the library and read JS Mill, Tom Paine etc.
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