Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A nice idea that leaves out the critical part

I read this morning where a private individual in Arizona has gathered enough petitions to place an initiative on the November ballot.  His idea is to take unclaimed lottery prizes and award $1 million to someone who actually casts a ballot in a subsequent election.

I'm appalled that fewer than ten percent of registered voters turned out for this month's primaries in North Carolina, but while I'm eager to encourage greater interest and participation in the democratic process, I am leery of offering a cash incentive for voting.  I am reminded of the story of a new junior college which was established several years ago; incoming students were polled for their preference of school colors and a mascot.

They were uninterested.  Just pick them and let us know, they told the administration.

Oh, no, said the school's leaders.  That's not how we're going to go about it.  You, the students, need to decide.  So they did.

On the opening day of football season, the school's team appeared in pink and white uniforms.  Their mascot was an artichoke.  Officials later admitted it was absolute murder trying to find a supplier for pink football jerseys.

Come to think of it, the school was in Arizona.

So in one sense, if voters aren't interested in exercising their franchise, there may be undesirable consequences to focusing on the mechanics of casting a vote without any expectation that the voters even know what's on the ballot.  There is much more at stake than picking a series of lottery numbers, and while we need more citizens to act the part and make the effort to participate, efforts to recruit that participation have to include the critical need for informed voters -- not just those who want a chance at a million-buck payoff.


At 5:32 AM, Blogger Mama said...

Exactly. This is the same problem we see in the schools. "Children must read!" they say, so the school libraries are full of idiocies. There is more to an action than the action or we are worse than animals, we're mere robots. Frankly, I'd rather they didn't read books if all they are going to read is foolish drivel. And I would definitely rather they didn't vote if they don't care to without being paid.


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