This slowly approaching 2012 election marks the first time in my short history when I have been 1) able to vote and 2) know and care enough about politics to make a somewhat informed voting decision.
For many years, as a green-card-carrying denizen of this fine country, I was forced to sit on the sidelines of politics as an apathetic but optimistic observer. Each campaign and election race was like a horrific car crash that I just so happened upon; the only thought I could muster was, “Geez, I hope everyone gets out of that whole mess OK.”
But now, naturalized, I am more than a rubber-necker; I have the option, nay the power, to physically pull someone from the burning wreckage that is their political campaign. This power may be comparable to one of the lesser gods in the super-hero pantheon – say, Aquaman – but it is power all the same.
As my great eye turns upon our news outlets to gather information and understand who might best not destroy the country, I find myself digesting many sorts of biased media; all of which seems tainted with some kind of directional skew that means little to the uninitiated.
In the mess of partisan rhetoric, and third-grade-recess name-calling, I found this gem of an article: “Stupid Voters Enable Broken Government”.
LZ Granderson paints a clear, if somewhat obvious picture, pointing out that most American voters don’t even know what they’re voting for, or why they’re actually doing it. This in turn leads to Americans voting with their dicks, bibles, prejudices, and “feelings”, instead of their brains.
But how do you prevent a dumb person from voting? You cannot bar the gates of voting centers, requiring each registrant name at least 3 works of Shakespeare that aren’t Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet. You can’t demand they scribble down the quadratic formula, and then solve for X before being given the chance to cast their ballot. You just can’t. It’s not nice, and is probably unconstitutional or something.
I submit that we can, however, demand that these people articulate why they’re voting the way they are, and propose we do this via a very simple, clear process:
Have each voter write a short paragraph, no more than 3 sentences, outlining why they are voting for this particular candidate. Make sure it is (mostly) coherent, the spelling is (mostly) correct and it is (mostly) free of hate speech and racial slurs. “He’s/she’s the same race as me”; “he/she believes in the same god as me”; “he/she has great hair”; or “he/she hates the same people/stuff I do” are not acceptable answers. “I support his/her stance on military spending”; “I support his/her ideas to increase education spending”; or “he’s/she’s the least insane of all the candidates” are all acceptable answers.
The essays are then briefly read by an analysis system to make sure the person voting has a good reason or argument, and his vote is validated. If the statement fails the test, said person’s vote becomes null-and-void. To all the naysayers: If we can build a machine that kicks serious ass at Jeopardy, we can develop a machine that can read basic sentences and evaluate them based on a tiny sampling of content.
The voter will never know if his vote was accepted or rejected. All he knows is that he did his civic duty and got out of work a little early. If he fell short and did not supply enough support for his vote, his candidate will pay the price. If a correlation truly does exist between dumb people voting for bad leaders, this can only be a good thing.
People might complain that this unfairly alienates the illiterate portion of our population. I, perhaps callously, think that if you can’t read about a candidate, and can’t express in writing why you support that candidate, then you don’t get to vote. Pretty simple. There are ample opportunities to become literate, and I find any illiterate person who doesn’t have some sort of mental problem to be downright offensive.
This way, we could weed out votes from the people who really have no place voting, and hopefully increase representation from those who understand what they’re doing and saying. I can’t help but imagine a system like this would eliminate some candidates immediately, as 100% of their voter base would fail the basic written test.
Rick Santorum, I’m looking your way.