Sunday, August 20, 2006

Artificial Voters

Stateline.org reports on new ideas to generate voter turnout in Arizona and Michigan:
Arizona will decide whether to make people who show up at the polls eligible for a $1 million jackpot. In Michigan, 80,000 people who’ve voted only sporadically were put on notice by a political consultant that, if they didn’t vote this year, they’d be outed as slackers to their friends and neighbors.
The best ideas that Michigan and Arizona could come up with for increasing voter turnout is a guilt trip or a lottery? Neither of these sound like a good idea. (They also sound rather ridiculous, but that is beside the point.)

A guilt trip probably won't work in the first place. Do you honestly think people will care if they are "outed as slackers?" Slate News describes the process (or something similar) as fliers being sent to many people telling them whether or not their neighbors have voted. The political consultant claims a "2% increase" in voter turnout, but I question if that is even statistically significant (probably isn't). Regardless, bullying or guilting voters to get them to the polls will only result in irate, resentful voters who didn't care enough on their own to go and vote.

Even worse is the idea of dangling $1 million in front of potential voters in an effort to get them to the polls. In this case, we wouldn't even end up with resentful voters but completely apathetic voters who just came in an effort to get in on the million dollar drawing. Their votes would probably lack any sort of thought behind them. In close elections, these random votes could tip the scale without any sort of intent to do so, putting an unintended official in office.

What angers me here is the promotion of uneducated voters. (I mean, of course, educated/informed about the issues on which they are voting and I am not commenting on their level of formal education.) Would I like to increase the voter turnout each year? Without a doubt, yes! However, I also want those votes to be thought about and to mean something to the individual casting the vote. (I'm sure there is some appropriate quote I could insert here.) Pushing uninformed voters to vote will only serve, in the long run, to distance and alienate more voters. Increasing voter turnout should come from promoting candidates that actually reflect their constituency’s views and from eliminating partisan bickering.

(Thanks to moderatevoters.org for the original link.)

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