Monday, October 20, 2008

Wanted: Ignorant Voters

I find an interesting dichotomy that has surfaced in the reporting of the presidential political landscape of this past week.

First, close to home, it seems that some politicos are seeing that the voters of West Virginia might be softening their stance against Obama. Bloggers and reporters are asking if West Virginians have decided, suddenly, that they are no longer racist, or rather if it's the worsening economy that is convincing them to vote against their racial bias and in favor of their pocketbooks.

Over in Ohio the group ACORN is busy trying to find all the people they can to load up the polls come election day. They are offering all kinds of inducements - from discount coupons to businesses to free concert tickets - to get people to register to vote. They will also be providing transportation to the polls for those whom they sign up.

Ostensibly ACORN is fulfilling a noble purpose: Getting people involved in the democratic process. Of course, in doing so they are inducing people who have zero interest in - and knowledge of - politics to vote. The Democratic Party leaders are thrilled with ACORN's efforts because they know that the politically ignorant voters in the mostly urban areas where ACORN works are going to vote Democrat 90% of the time. Of course, Republicans see this as nothing short of election fraud.

Meanwhile, back in West Virginia, our ignorant voters are going to massively support John McCain; not because they like him, but because they don't trust a guy with a name Barack Hussein Obama, who by the way is black.

So both parties are rooting for ignorant voters to show up at the polls. Republicans love our idiots and Democrats love the Buckeye imbeciles.

This dichotomy would be much more interesting if West Virginia had the same same Electoral College weight as Ohio. As it is, it really doesn't matter what our idiots do. If McCain wins W.Va., then so what? If Obama wins it will be a moot point. Ohio's idiots are much more important in this election.

This is a good argument for voter qualification. People should have to prove their worthiness to vote before they are given a voter's registration card. Some kind of test should be given that would evaluate the voter's IQ and ensure that the voter possesses at least a modicum of understanding about the United States political system before they are given their turn in the voting booth.

Oh yeah, you want to call me a bad person for saying that, but you know that deep down you agree with me.


MountainLaurel said...

I've been saying that for a long time. But what disturbs me is that I'm an intelligent, informed voter, and I'm not sure if my vote is going to count considering the shenanigans going on in Putnam and Jackson counties.

The Film Geek said...

If we are gonna wish for tests that prove one is worthy of carrying out rights, how should we design a test to prove one can carry out the responsibility of free speech?

Charles said...

Film Geek, I'm not sure I understand your comment. But it does give me the opportunity to say this: The US Constitution does not provide citizens with the right to vote for the president. Some people don't realize that it is left up to the individual states to determine how best to accomplish that.

Dave said...

I think therein lies the problem..that the states determine that issue.
It's what gets us into messes like the absurdity of 'voter registration', which I think should be automatic. (maybe at birth, we already get an SSN)

Different state rules about elections is what gave us Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. These Secretaries of States who put party nonsense above the voting process should be stripped of their position and criminally reprimanded (on BOTH sides)

Bemused said...

That's not true, Charles.

The 14th and 15th Amendments require that States afford all citizens above the legal age (then 21 now 18) the right to vote, unless disqualified by rebellion or conviction of crime.

States are permitted to enact state laws regulating how people are required to register and prove qualification to vote but it is inarguably unconstitutional to deny franchise based on intelligence, literacy, property owenership, etc., and of course race. (Sex discrimination was banned by the 19th and the voting age was lowered to 18 by the 26th).

Amendment 14 - Citizenship Rights. Ratified 7/9/1868.

1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.


Amendment 15 - Race No Bar to Vote. Ratified 2/3/1870. History

1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Amendment 24 - Poll Tax Barred. Ratified 1/23/1964. History

1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Amendment 26 - Voting Age Set to 18 Years. Ratified 7/1/1971. History

1. The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legi

Charles said...

Bemused, the Constitution seems to warn states against denying the franchise and clearly defines the punishment for doing so, but if a state was OK with having its representation cut then they could still opt to deny the franchise, could they not?

So, if we wanted to say that only one-third of our population was smart enough to vote, couldn't we say, "it's OK by us if we lose one of our three Representatives"?

Heck, if it would get rid of Alan Mollohan I'd be all for it!

MountainLaurel said...

*blush* Film Geek, if I'm understanding you right, I have to blush at my thoughts. An assault against one right is an assault against them all. Yes, I get frustrated and say things like "new rules: if you think Barack Obama is a Muslim, you can't vote." It's in frustration over the stupid stuff some folks believe rather than a genuine wish to disenfranchise.

Thanks for the reality check.

Paul said...

I'm a native Charlestonian who has lived my whole adult life in Columbus. Since Nov 2004, I've been a pollworker, serving a number of times as what we call a "Presiding Judge," which is the person charged with managing the polling place.

Not one election has gone by here without voter rules changing. The training courses for poll workers happen as late as possible (mine is tonight), and yet we still get new instructions prior to the election.

But the thing that really changed this year was giving the counties a choice to allow early, in-person 'absentee' voting, which started Sept 30.

The really bizzare thing was that there was a slight overlap between the end of time for voter registration and the beginning of this in-person early voting period. So we had partisan workers cruising the homeless shelters and picking up guys and taking them to register and vote - all in one trip. Of course, the workers also did their charitable thing of giving the guys coffee and sandwiches - not like buying votes, right?

It's pretty screwed up.


Bemused said...

There is no precise precedent on point, so I suppose one can't say for sure, but I believe the Supreme Court would very likely find the privileges and immunities clause in section 1 of the 14th, prohibits a state from denying the federal franchise to a United states citizen.

The second section speaks to the "punishment" of the state by the federal government if it denies the franchise, but because the citizen himself (as opposed to merely the federal government) would have a cause of action against the state, I suspect such a citizen could successfully enjoin a state ferom denying him the ability to vote in federal elections.

The Film Geek said...

Hi MountainLaurel: You read it right. And it is frustrating. But not so much that we restrict such fundamental aspects of our political system. I think a better answer is to better educate and inform the population. That's overhwelming, of course, and one of the reasons it's just plain easier to wish such restrictions were in place.

Bemused said...

Well, education and information are readily available to anyone who desires. Not coincidentally, there is a high (but not perfect) correlation between ignorance and apathy, so, most people who choose to take the extemely slight effort it takes to vote have "educated" themselves as they see fit to do. that their choices of information do not coincide with your choices is not so much due to a lack of access to "good" information but a conscious decision.

Those who vote based on misinformation are almost always complicit in the "miseducation" they receive because they seek misinformation to reinforce their prejudices and biases and CHOOSE to ignore information that will challenge their prejudices.

It's naive in the extreme to think that some sort of non-partisan do-gooder effort to "educate" people would have any effect at all. First, because any such effort would have its own political agenda disguised as "do-gooding" and second because the people we supposedly want to reach are obviously the least likely to accept it.

In the end, the price you pay for living in a civil society is co-existing with everyone else.

The Film Geek said...

I was thinking more along the line of being better at teaching critical thinking skills.

Bemused said...

But, that's silly. It's not a lack of critical reading skills that causes some people of all political persuasions to be extremely prejudiced and narrow minded. No one is out there yearning to be rational but denied because of inability to understand the purposes behind what they read.

It's the irrational personalities that lead them to think and act as they do. They choose to be that way (except for the even smaller subset of the mentally ill) rather than being prevented from being different by forces beyond their control.

They don't want to be like you and you can't make them.

The Film Geek said...

I didn't say I wanted them to be like me. I said I'd like people to think more critically. And I don't find that silly. People would be better consumers of information if they didn't take soundbite as fact, researched a bit and then made their minds up. Wanting people to think more critically doesn't mean I expect them to come to the same conclusions as I hold.

Bemused said...

Uh, to the extent you consider yourself adept at critical thinking (although I'm beginning to have my doubts about you) that is exactly what you are asking.

You want them to be "better consumers" of information and reach their decisions the way you think they should be reached. It's big of you to acknowledge one might do that and reach conclusions different than the ones you reach, but you are not "thinking critically" about the information you provide about yourself if you don't recognize the self-congratulatory nature of your opinion about how other people should behave.

I repeat: they don't want to be like you and you can't make them, even if you tell them it's for their own good.

The Film Geek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bemused said...

See, that wasn't so difficult to understand, was it?

I'm sure that if you put your mind to it you'll also understand that people who drive recklessly don't do so because they are intellectually incapable of grasping the relationship between reckless driving and injuries. they CHOOSE to drive that way; they are not forced to do out of failure to understand and analyze information.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

YES, we need to qualify voters! IQ tests for all. Perhaps we should do background checks on each and every person who registers also. But why stop there? Should a person who votes at least be able to provide some evidence that they are or have been a productive and contributing member of Amurkkkin society? Afterall, should we allow deadbeats to vote?
And speaking of deadbeats, lets be sure that every single able bodied Amurkkkin that does try to vote is up-to-date on his taxes, and what the hell, every other bill they might owe. Again., we don't need no stinking deadbeats throwing their two cents into our democracy.
Oh, and did I mention literacy testing? Why the fuck not?! Have you ever seen those illiterate deadbeats walk into a polling place and have to have a poll worker read the ballot for them? I have. Let's have no more of that.
Yea, time to begin making people prove their worthiness to vote.
You're truly a great mind and progressive thinker Charles.

clear eyes said...

Perhaps we should institute IQ tests for candidates as well (or at least checks for common sense). Anyone who advocates raising taxes and protectionism during "the greatist financial crisis since the Great Depression" clearly has not learned a thing about the Great Depression, its causes, and the many failed attempts to get out of it.

Bemused said...

Why stop at intelligent, literate and productive as qualifications. Film Geek seems to believe we should also think about excluding those who are not perfectly rational and allow bias, prejudice and irrational emotions to influence their decisions.

Perhaps the problem is allowing human beings to make decisions for themselves because human beings simply can't be trusted to reach the right decisions employing the correct methodology. I'd suggest substituting a computer model to select our office holders based on purely rational criteria of merit but then how do we get around the need for at least one human being to select and weigh the various criteria?

No, Charles, it's not that you are a bad person. It's just that you didn't think this idea through very well at all. I'll still defend your right to vote though even if by the standard your post suggests some might question whether you should be allowed.

Once we start with notions of elitist restrictions, the question, of course, becomes where do we stop and why should we stop at a point that doesn't restrict you?

SagaciousHillbilly said...

If you're really worried about the ignorance of the masses, you need to get behind the candidate that wants to do the most to fix the education system in this country.
We have a crisis of ignorance. People have forgotten or never learned how to think critically and how to make solid judgements for themselves. They've been handed their ideas on a plater garnished with fear and contempt for independent thought.
We need a new system. We need to quit using the education system as a test bed for every lame assed idea some ego infused PhD comes up with. We need to get back to really teaching children how to do specific skills and how to think.
Our problem isn't stupid voters. Our problem isn't poverty or lack of opportunity, our problem is a piss poor education system.

Bemused said...

When exactly was the time when good "critical thinking skills" were commonplace and all the boys were handsome and all the girls pretty?

I think it's a pretty strong case of the pot calling the kettle black when you accuse others of having their ideas handed to them while uncritically accepting and repeating the claim people of this era are deficient compared to past eras.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Bemused, Being a student of history, I have no illusions about how people of past eras operated or their level of intellect.
What I believe is that we have a world where information is readily accessible in many different formats. The information is available for everyone to see. Not just a one sided newspaper dropped on the sidewalk every evening or a two page events sheet delivered to your local trading post once a month.
Things are different these days and people ought to be taught to aggressively use the resources they have. They also need to be better taught the basics of education, but that's a totally different subject or perhaps not. . . give people a good foundation of basic education and it makes them more likely to explore the possibilities.
The bottom line is that every social problem we have today is fixable to a large degree through education.
But then, maybe you're here to call people names and insult others rather than explore the possiblities. . . kettle.

Bemused said...

No, you are not asking for "better" education. You are asking for changing for public schools to impose your idea of proper socialization and to change the culture.

"Teaching" people to expend more effort seeking a greater amount of information so that they make political decisions differently is not teaching people "how to think", it would be an attempt to change the way they behave.

Elitists come in a variety of guises, but they all share the prejudice that the solutions lie in making other people accept what the elitists decide is best for them.

Improving education is a worthy goal but it will likely only strengthen resistance to reform to submit the idea that the reason for improving education is to make people behave the way you think they should behave.

You would be well advised to stop viewing yourself as SUPERIOR and start asking if perhaps there are reasons others choose to be DIFFERENT apart from your considering yourself better informed and wiser than are they.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

I suspect you are only here to argue and make snide arrogant comments, but I will respond nonetheless. . .

I have no desire to change "culture" or involve myself in "socialization."
In fact, I'm really don't have a lot of concrete ideas on how to reform the education system so your contention that I am somehow imposing my superior ideas on others is a giant leap in logic.
Get over yourself bemused.

I believe we need to change the education system in the US. I believe we need to get back to basics and quit using the school system as a proving ground for every thesis some PhD candidate proposes.

So go ahead, have fun, take my comments wherever you'd like to take them. Do your quantum leaps in logic and reason. Take simple remarks and use them as fodder for your simplistic self righteous ranting.
Whatever it takes to get you through the day.

Bemused said...

I'll agree with "getting back to the basics" in primary and secondary education.

What I take issue is with is: "The bottom line is that every social problem we have today is fixable to a large degree through education."

This astounding assertion, while nonsensical obviously, certainly implies that you view the purpose of education to be "socializing people" as you believe they should be socialized.

Improving the teaching of reading, writing, arithmetic and basic science should be a priority. However, no one with a even a dollop of critical thinking skills would believe this would fix every (or even any) social problem we have. Anti-social behavior by good readers has the same impact as that by poor readers and it seems rather loony to believe that people will choose to be better citizens just because they read better. I'm sure we both know people with negative impacts who read well and positive impacts who read less well.

Certainly no one truly in favor of "getting back to the basics" wants to use public education to "fix" the social problems they perceive as existent and needing fixed. Even assuming we all agreed on which problems to fix, that time spent "fixing" things would take away from basic education.

A "sagacious" person would probably both recognize the fallacy in the argument that improving math ability will fix many social problems and recognize that focusing on basics in education is pretty much the exact opposite of using schools to address social problems. A wise person might also recognize that it is exactly the shift in emphasis to social engineering (as endorsed by the Ed.Ds and Ph.Ds you disdain) that has gotten us away from the basics.

Schools should not be seen as political and social institutions intended to make people "good voters" or "good citizens" or "good neighbors." Schools should focus on teaching all the students how to read, write, do arithmetic and understand basic science without reagard to any external consequences.

Will that solve many social problems? No, of course not, but it will help some of those who would benefit from a better education survive in a world with a lot of social problems.

Bemused said...

I encourage everyone who hasn't already to vote today. Regardless of what some pompous folks might say about your education, critical thinking skills or depth of knowledge, what makes this country great is that you do have the ability to vote and influence the direction of our nation, and your vote even counts just as much as those who think their votes should count for more because they are so wonderful.


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