If some terrible catastrophe befell America wherein mass groups of citizens were stricken unimaginably stupid, would it be a good idea to preserve our current one-vote-per-person system? I think not: should the republic suffer a collective lobotomy, we would need to restructure the system so that better-informed citizens had weightier votes than the sorts of people who vote for a candidate “because his name is the same as my cat’s.”
My proposal to fix such a country would be to administer a 100 question test covering basic civics and current events, and use the score as how many votes a constituent could cast in a senate election. Why such a proposal? Because the intellectual Armageddon described above has already happened.
To clarify, when I refer to “stupid voters,” I don’t mean “I’m a conservative and progressives are dumb,” or vice versa. There are smart people on both sides of the aisles. I mean that our country is so overflowing with fools that you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting some boob unable to count to twenty without taking his socks off. A dolt armed with Twitter, unfocused rage and the same number of votes as you at the local precinct. Deep down, do you really think this person’s opinion should carry equal weight as yours?
Consider the following:
One in five Americans believes the Sun revolves around the Earth. Astounding, I know, but polls back it up, and repeatedly at that.
Interestingly, 67% of Americans know that Superman hails from the planet Krypton, but only 37% know that Mercurcy is the closest planet to our Sun. (Who exactly is teaching our high school astronomy classes? Can the Krypton-savvy kids at least explain heliocentric theory to the people who think the sun loops around the Earth?)
One out of every four Americans isn’t entirely sure of who exactly America gained independence from. France? Russia? Narnia?
In a 2006 poll three-fourths of Americans could name two or more of Snow White’s seven dwarfs, while only a quarter of Americans surveyed could name two Supreme Court justices. Three-fourths of Americans can name all Three Stooges (Larry, Curly and Ginsburg), while less than half know all three branches of government.
So here’s my plan: elections for members of the House of Representatives proceed as usual, which is to say one mishandled vote per voter. (Plus a lot of dead people who mysteriously turn up at elections in districts with corrupt precinct supervisors and out-dated voter registrations.)
The Senate is meant to be a cooler, more deliberative chamber. That’s why until 1913 people did not directly elect senators, their state legislatures did. Under my system, people still vote in Senate elections, but constituents are allotted multiple and disproportionate votes.
Let’s not get bogged down in details here. Just play around with the concept. We would commission an impartial body like the Congressional Resource Service to devise a regularly updated Voting Aptitude Test, containing 100 questions. Whatever your score is on the test is how many votes you may cast for a senatorial candidate.
If you comprehend how the government works and are generally well informed, you might score a 78, and cast that many votes for Senator Palpatine. If you do not read newspapers, and think the Supreme Court pertains to basketball, you’re more likely to score low, and only give only 20 votes to candidate Buck Shwartzmore.
The first fifty questions would all be rudimentary civics stuff– What legal document provides the framework for the governing of the United States? What is a “presidential veto”? How many members of the senate are there?
The next twenty-five questions would pertain to the district you are voting from and ought to be informed about. Who is your governor? Your state representative, congressman, mayor?
The final twenty-five questions would be national and international focused. Name the Vice President. What is NAFTA? What is NATO? Who is the Speaker of the House?
The test would not be a doozy. The goal is not to supercharge The Economist subscribers but to diminish the clout of oblivious masses. For lack of anything else, we could default on the citizenship test we administer to immigrants as part of their naturalization process. Take a gander at that test: it’s not the LSAT.
If you can’t answer those basic questions you have no business tinkering in the leadership of the free world. And there’s nothing morally wrong about staying home on election day. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, because you’re too busy or really just bored by it all, not voting is the highest patriotic virtue you can muster under such circumstances.
If a candidate relied entirely on mud-slinging and scare tactics, such as a campaign based around red-eyed demon sheep designed to frighten seniors to the point of losing bowel control, they would risk alienating crucial “heavy voters” and losing the election. Campaigns could no longer revolve around accruing vast war chests to simply drown out opposing television attack ads amongst the lowest common denominator.
Prior to an election, political parties would have an incentive to educate their members on basic civics lessons and current events. Of course Republicans and Democrats will do so through blatant propaganda. I don’t care. Do you want biased but informed voters, or prejudiced oblivious ones?
My friends usually tell me, “No one would ever agree to your system, because no one would willing give up their votes.” That’s exactly why my proposal is possible.
Everybody thinks they possess above-average intelligence. There is such a thing as an uninformed and apathetic citizen: they’re called “unregistered voters.” However you will find scant few Americans who scream and fume about politics yet admit to knowing nothing about it.
I would posit that the loudest moron you can imagine will also probably assume he or she will score in the highest percentile on the Voting Aptitude Test. And so he or she would sign onto my plan, thinking they would increase their voting power at the expense of “those other idiots.”
Therein lies the beauty of my system: fools get the ball rolling, we save the country.
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