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Voting Rights At Risk

Things that are earned are valued more highly than gifts, so...
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Ever since I read the book "Starship Troopers" by Robert A. Heinlein, I've been aware of two general facts about voting. First is that after a population struggles to obtain a right to vote, and finally succeeds, the percentage of voters in that group is quite high (examples from American history: many blacks and all women, last couple of centuries). Second is that when a group of people are simply given a right to vote, without having earned it, the percentage of voters can be quite low (many modern elections).

So, I've wondered at various times what sort of thing might be appropriate, as a way of earning the right to vote, instead of being given it. Heinlein's story has the idea that only people who volunteer for a couple years of military service should have the right to vote --they would have earned it, see?

Naturally, anyone who opposes the military would be aghast at that idea. But what is a suitable alternative? (Some might say, "The Peace Corps", but others won't like that one, either.)

In this Idea, I will propose that people are first given the right to vote, but also can LOSE it. And the method is very simple. "If you don't vote in the current election, then you will not be allowed to vote in the next election."

It should be a kind of "oscillating" rule; the election after the one in which you were disallowed from voting would be another election in which you would be allowed to vote. But if you don't vote in it, then you would lose the right to vote in the NEXT election after that one. And so on.

Now, some people would want anyone who fails to vote once to be forever barred from the democratic process (they would say, "Regardless of whether or not you were allowed to vote in the last election, the fact is, you didn't vote in that election, and so you can't vote in this one") -- and in that direction tyranny lies. So the previous paragraph was written to specifally prevent such mis-use of this Idea.

In the USA a rule like the one proposed here can be subtly powerful, because every 2 years is an election, and half of them can be considered "fairly minor", because all Congressional seats and 1/3 of Senate seats are up-for-grabs, while in the other half of elections (every 4 years, that is), the Presidency is also up for grabs, which makes it the major election.

So, if you don't vote in, say, the current minor election, you wouldn't be allowed to vote in the next (and major) election. You simply earn the right to vote in the next election, by participating in the current election.

I don't know how well this Idea could work for other democracies, since I don't know if they have an equivalent to the minor/major election system that we have. I think it is faily important for any democracy to have at least SOME elections fairly often, for this Idea to work as a stimulus to encourage voting.

Vernon, Feb 10 2012


       Felons already lose the right to vote, though can in some cases regain it.   

       I think the best idea for getting better representation is to pay for performance, as defined by GDP growth and balance sheet.
theircompetitor, Feb 10 2012

       [theircompetitor], "better representatives" can in theory be found regardless of how few voters there are. This Idea is about the voters, not about the representatives.
Vernon, Feb 10 2012

       But if the goal is not to get better representatives as a result, what is the goal?
theircompetitor, Feb 10 2012

       The goal is to get more people to vote in elections, which is the fundamental foundation of any democratic system. Sure, I know that to get better representatives of the voters, the voters need to be well-informed, but, again, that is a different issue from the issue of getting the voters to the polls, where they can actually put-to-work what information they do have, about the potential representatives.   

       I'm saying, here, that merely educating the voters is not enough, by itself, to be an incentive to vote.
Vernon, Feb 10 2012

       I'm skeptical that counting the votes of those that need to be "encouraged" will improve the results.   

       I think typically the places where voting participation is much higher are either compulsory, or imperiled (and are in some cases, very different culturally).   

       As Benny HIll said, the soup was good before, so you had low voting rates. Just like social unrest, voting participation will increase as a result of a perception that the soup is no good.
theircompetitor, Feb 10 2012

       In some ways a lack of a vote might be considered as a vote in itself, no?
RayfordSteele, Feb 10 2012

       The comment about well informed voters reminds me of a comic I once read. The husband of the comic strip family was looking frantically for a quarter for half the strip. He finally finds a quarter and says, "Okay, heads I vote for the tall guy, tails, I vote for the geezer."   

       Personally I would be scared if everyone in the country got out and voted, with more than half of them not knowing anything about who or what they were voting for.   

       On the other hand, if people were motivated to vote in order to keep their right to vote, they might pay more attention to what is going on and what they are voting for...   

Psalm_97, Feb 10 2012

       [RayfordSteele], to participate in the voting process does not automatically have to be associated with actual voting. The whole purpose of a Secret Ballot is to ensure that candidates can't know who did or did not vote for them, so that powerful candidates can't accurately apply punishment to those who didn't vote for them.   

       As it happens, here in the USA there are Voter Registrars at the polls, who check to see if you are on the list of people who are allowed to vote in that precinct. Obviously it would be not-cool for people to visit multiple precincts and cast multiple votes for a particular Presidential candidate.   

       Anyway, the verification process already exists and is separate from the actual voting process. So, in this Idea, as long as you show up and satisfy the Registrars, thereby satisfying the earn-the-right-to-vote thing, for the next election, nobody will know what you do with your Secret Ballot. You might vote for some candidate-positions and not others.   

       But I do think the chances will increase, that you will do at least some voting, since you have already taken the time to go to the polls, and stand in line waiting your turn to satisfy the Registrars.
Vernon, Feb 11 2012

       //"Starship Troopers" by Robert A. Heinlein//   

       Joe Haldeman was another ex-military SF author, and a more thoughtful one, for my money. He invented a system where the military were the only ones not permitted to vote.
mouseposture, Feb 11 2012

       The military were not permitted to vote in Starship Troopers either. They had to make it through their term of service before they could.   

       Regardless, there is a problem with this. I do routinely vote. The last election here, there was a single local seat being contested. It was for school board. I knew nothing about either candidate, and have no kids to be in school. Should I, therefore, make an uninformed decision on a race I care nothing about simply to maintain my right to vote in the upcoming election where I am both informed and have a distinct preference?
MechE, Feb 11 2012

       As [vernon] said, you can (presumably) get your name ticked off just by turning up, but not actually voting for anyone. That's how it works where voting is 'compulsory'.
spidermother, Feb 11 2012

       I dislike this,extremely.   

       I figured voting for one or the other only encouraged the elitist vampires.   

       That was before 2001.   

       Some elitist vampires are worse than others &I that's a fact.   

       Sweden: facing economic collapse. What did they do?   

       California, Greece, italy, the UK, Spain, France, etc.. what did they do?
Zimmy, Feb 15 2012

       //Felons already lose the right to vote//
umm... so people who, by definition, object to the way things are, aren't allowed to vote to change it ?
FlyingToaster, Feb 15 2012

       I'm sorta onboard with what's shaping up... here's my 2¢ : if you have no real opinion on the candidates or can't find one suitable enough to vote for, then you register your opinion on the issues, bring forward your own issues, or at last resort simply register that you have no clue and/or don't care. The results of the "opinion poll" (haw) would be public, personally identifying information opt-in.
FlyingToaster, Feb 15 2012

       For the record, I have voted in every election in which I am eligible.   

       States need to better coordinate their registry rolls. If I register in one state, it doesn't automatically remove me from another.
RayfordSteele, Feb 15 2012


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