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March 26, 2015

Mandatory Voting a Disastrous Proposal

If you ever hear Obama talk about transforming America, you can bet your last red cent that he is proposing something that will undermine American liberty and the rule of law.

This time is no different. Last Wednesday, speaking to a civic group in Cleveland, Obama responded to a question about the negative impact on money in politics by going on a tangent about voting rights and about making it easier for people to vote. He declared “If everybody voted, it would completely change the political map in this country.”

Ummm, yes, that is correct, but is that “change” for better or for worse? Obama promised to “fundamentally transform” America if elected, and so he has…millions more Americans unemployed, median income down thousands, millions more on food stamps and welfare, and a complete disregard by Obama of limitations to his power. Not all change is good.

But what about this idea of mandatory voting, insuring that all Americans have a say in our political process? Is this a good idea?

For those of us with children, is it a good idea to let them have a vote on how household income is prioritized and distributed? Should we let first-year medical students have an equal say with senior physicians as to the best course of treatment for patients? Should the lowliest of privates have an equal say in war strategy as grizzled veteran generals? For those with an IQ above room temperature, the obvious answer is a resounding “NO!”

Despite Obama’s lament, I’d argue that we need to be more selective, not less, in who we allow to vote. That qualification should be a display of a minimum level of political and civic knowledge, proving they have enough competence to be engaged in the process.

My proposal? Before handing over a voter registration card, have each citizen take the same test as is required of immigrants pursuing U.S. citizenship. After all, why should we countenance less knowledge and awareness from natural-born citizens than we require of foreigners seeking to make American their home?

Not surprisingly, depending on their general ideological leanings, states are taking different approaches. Arizona, which has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1976 except one, this year passed a new law requiring high school students pass a civics exam before they can graduate, reflecting the state’s goal of creating more informed voters. Similar legislation is being considered in other solidly conservative states, such as Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah.

By contrast, liberal Oregon just signed a law which automatically registers every eligible citizen to vote when they obtain or renew a driver’s license or state ID card, regardless of whether they have shown a desire to vote, or any competency on the issues or candidates for which they will vote. Additionally, liberal states like California have been pushing for more voting rights for non-citizens, including illegal aliens.

Evidence of the utter ignorance of the average American, when it comes to knowledge of American history and civics, is abundant. According to a study of the Annenberg Public Policy Center released late last year, “Americans show great uncertainty when it comes to answering basic questions about how their government works.”

The poll results, ironically released on September 17th (Constitution Day), show a disastrous level of ignorance regarding the American form of government. Of those polled, barely more than a third (36%) could name all three branches of government. Mind-bogglingly, 35% could not even name ONE of the branches. Only 13% knew that the Constitution was signed in 1787, and less than a fifth (15%) correctly identified John Roberts as the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Barely a quarter (27%) know that it takes a 2/3 vote of Congress to override a presidential veto. Astonishingly, more than half of Americans polled did not know which party controls the U.S. House and Senate.

It can be entertaining to watch people stumble and stutter and look like idiots when asked even the most rudimentary questions about American history and government (as seen here, here, and here), but this level of ignorance should terrify every American.

I suppose this level of ignorance should not surprise us. After all, our public schools have largely abandoned the teaching of civics and American history, and what they do teach is often hopelessly distorted. The NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) test shows American students score lower on American history than any other subject. The College Board (which produces the SAT test, and some of the AP exams) has almost completely done away with any material covering the Founding Fathers (not a single mention of James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution”, or Benjamin Franklin).

If we don’t teach our children what makes America great, about a form of government which minimizes government power (theoretically), about a free market economic system, and a nation where government is (theoretically) the servant of sovereign citizens, acting only through the consent of the governed, then it should be no surprise they would grow up to see America as a net evil in the world, or at best no better than any other nation or form of government.

Daniel Webster, among the most esteemed political minds and orators in American history, declared we must “[i]mpress upon children the truth that the exercise of the elective franchise is a social duty as solemn a nature as man can be called to perform; that a man may not innocently trifle with his vote; that every elector is a trustee as well for others as himself and that every measure he supports has an important bearing on the interests of others as well as on his own.”

Thomas Jefferson stated that “[i]f a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

So before we hand out a voter card to every American with a pulse, let’s make sure they know the basics. Should they have the right to vote if they can’t name the three branches of government and their functions, or identify the supreme law of the land, or have a basic understanding of federalism, or the separation of powers doctrine? If they don’t have a clue as to the major problems facing our nation, and what is required to solve them, should their vote be able to offset the vote of someone who spends hours becoming informed? Absolutely not!

Two final questions: Do you consider yourself an informed voter? If so, can you pass a test on basic American civics and history, or a test of current events that impact our nation? If so, congratulations! You are more informed than most Americans!

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