F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines

Week of:
December 3, 2000
Some Voters Should be Disenfranchised

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

The electoral college is one of only a few things still standing between us and mob rule.

In the aftermath of the Presidential election, the lesson from lightweights is that every vote really does count. The unstated assumption -- unstated because it seems so obvious to the profoundly superficial -- is that every citizen has an obligation to vote, and the higher the turnout the better. But does every citizen really have such an obligation? Can there not be compelling reasons for a qualified voter to abstain from casting his ballot? Are there not voters who, though technically qualified under our permissive standards, are in fact mentally or morally incompetent to exercise the franchise? Is quantity to be preferred to quality in the electorate? Do we really want to increase voter turnout with cretins, cheats, and corpses?

If you've moved around the country much, the odds are you've sat out a local election or two. Maybe you felt that you didn't know enough about the local issues and personalities to make an informed choice. Maybe, with no real stake in a community that you would call home only temporarily, you felt you had no right to participate in an election deciding its future. You may have come to the reasonable conclusion that on some occasions not voting is the responsible thing to do.

Some of you may have stood in line at a polling place next to a voter who was obviously inebriated, or one who was illiterate and had to ask you to read for him the sample ballot provided by some special interest group. Maybe you realized that his vote would cancel out yours and you wondered why somebody so obviously unequipped for the franchise should be allowed to exercise it.

Shouldn't there be some kind of simple voter's test, similar to the test we all have to take to get a driver's license? A test that would require a basic understanding of our Constitution (like the reasoning behind the electoral college, for instance), and a basic familiarity with American history. You want to vote, you have to pass the test. You don't pass, you don't vote. Same test for everyone, with study booklets available. You could take the test as many times as you wanted, but you couldn't vote until you passed it.

Some people complain that it's nearly impossible to stay informed on all the issues involved in an election. They have a point. Our original form of government did not require us to be full-time students of politics. Voters were expected to choose a person of character and experience from their communities to represent them. Unfortunately, we are moving ever closer to direct democracy, in which elections are decided by personal greed and ignorance.

Hard as it is to keep up, it's impossible not to be appalled by the pervasive ignorance and apathy of American voters with regard to the numerous scandals of the Clinton-Gore Administration. That half of the electorate chose to extend this shameful eight-year episode is a sad commentary on the character of our people, and an ill omen for the future.

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