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Old 07-27-2006, 02:32 PM   #1
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Voting For Dollars

Entire article posted due to registration requirements of LA Times.

We Don't Need Beavis and Butt-head Voters

Quote:
I DON'T KNOW about you, but when that Mega Millions jackpot gets really high I like to go down to the local convenience store and ask the good folks waiting for hours to buy a fistful of tickets, "Hey, do you think Condi Rice should cut a deal with Bashar Assad?" Or, "Excuse me sir, I know you're busy filling out those little ovals for the same 78 numbers you play every week, but I was wondering whether you think reimportation of Canadian drugs is a good idea?" I mean, where else can you find the distilled genius of the vox populi than a line of people at the 7-Eleven who have a lot of time to spare during working hours?

Nowhere, according to Dr. Mark Osterloh of Tucson. Which is why he wants to get the Lotto crowd to vote by turning elections into giant lotteries. His idea, which has received undue national attention, is simple: If you vote, you're automatically entered in a drawing for $1 million — and perhaps some fabulous consolation prizes too! His proposal will be on the November ballot in Arizona, and he hopes it will revolutionize the country by enlisting the lottery-line crowd to fix our democracy. He even has a slogan: "Who wants to be a millionaire? Vote!"

Osterloh, an ophthalmologist and political activist (he ran for governor by bicycling throughout the state a few years ago), is one of those classic American cranks who has the audacity to take our civic cliches seriously. Since the civil rights era, Americans have been indoctrinated with the message that voting is an essential yardstick of citizenship. Editorialists, civics teachers and an assortment of deep-thinking movie stars residing in Periclean Hollywood have gone to great lengths to tell Americans that voter apathy is, in and of itself, a terrible evil and that, conversely, high voter turnout is a sign of civic health.

Indeed, for several years, voting rights activists have been pushing to give prison inmates and younger teenagers the right to vote, presuming that giving rapists, killers and Justin Timberlake fans a bigger say will improve our democratic process.

The push to make voting much easier has been considerably less controversial. Weekend voting, voting by mail and online voting are constantly greeted as vital reforms of our electoral system. And although some of these reforms are probably benign, all assume that even the slightest inconvenience in voting is an outrage because democratic health is purely a numbers game: More voters equals a healthier society. My own view is that voting should be more difficult because things of value usually require a little work. That goes for citizenship too.

Consider Internet voting. In the conventional view, the only legitimate criticism of online voting is its susceptibility to fraud. Almost no one questions its advisability if it worked — even though online voting assumes that we desperately need to hear from people who otherwise couldn't be bothered to get off the couch. Voting fetishists often liken democracy to a national "conversation" or "dialogue." So, tell me: What intelligent conversation is aided by the intrusion of Beavis and Butt-head?

What is surprising about Doc Osterloh's wacky idea is that the franchise maximizers hate it. The New York Times dubbed it "daft" and "one of the cheesier propositions on the November ballot." USA Today called it "tawdry." Fair enough.

But I think part of the reason they're so scandalized is that Osterloh is taking their logic to its natural conclusion. Advocates of increasing voter turnout already frame the issue in terms of "what's in it for you." MTV's condescending Choose or Lose campaign, which aims to get 18- to 30-year-olds to vote, says it all right there in the name; the gravy train is leaving the station and the ballot is your ticket onboard.

Just beneath the surface of much of this voter activism is the assumption that increased turnout would move American politics to the left, by redistributing wealth to the poor and "disenfranchised." There's probably some merit here, which explains why so many get-out-the-vote groups are proxies for the Democratic Party. But that doesn't change the fact that they are trolling for votes among people who don't appear to take their citizenship very seriously. Osterloh's bribery scheme merely exposes this motivation in a way that embarrasses voter activists.

Osterloh admits that he's motivated by more than democracy worship. "One of the goals that I've had in my lifetime is to see that all Americans have healthcare like every other major country on Earth. One of the ways to do that is to make sure that everybody votes." At least he's honest about it.
Does this type of motivation enhance democracy in any meaningful way?
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Old 07-27-2006, 02:38 PM   #2
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Should we strive for quanity over quality?

Will a higher turnout mean a higher turnout of educated voters, or will just fill in any dot for chance to win?
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Old 07-27-2006, 02:43 PM   #3
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actually, i'm genuinely perplexed by this issue.
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Old 07-27-2006, 02:43 PM   #4
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We need to do something about voter turnout. In the U.S. it's barely 50%. This is shameful. I don't think it's quantity over quality. We're trying to get people to exercise their right to vote.
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Old 07-27-2006, 03:13 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonoVoxSupastar
Should we strive for quanity over quality?

Will a higher turnout mean a higher turnout of educated voters, or will just fill in any dot for chance to win?
Perhaps that is the $1,000,000 question.

Why do we bemoan a 50% voter turnout rate? Is "not voting" a means of expression in itself?
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Old 07-27-2006, 03:45 PM   #6
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Not voting can be a sign of discontent with either candidate. But how are we supposed to know whether or not the people casting votes are "educated"? That's impossible. The only thing we can do is to help empower people in exercising their right to vote.
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Old 07-27-2006, 06:53 PM   #7
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it is a good thing

why not let some average joe
get some dough for voting

lately average joes have just been getting screwed


we have had a lot of others voting for taxpayers dollars
well, voting and influencing elections for taxpayer dollars

haliburton and certain denominations (faith based money) have been winning the lotto a lot lately
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Old 07-27-2006, 07:03 PM   #8
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He might as well try. Some of the worst voters are the ones that let their ministers tell them who to vote for, and they seem to come out in droves.

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Old 07-27-2006, 07:25 PM   #9
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Very interesting article, nbc, especially because of the questions it raise about the nature of democracy.

The idea that it's best if the "riff raff" don't vote, because they really don't know what they're doing and can't be trusted is with our nation's affairs is not a new one. That's why in the past, voting rights have been limited to say, property owners. Many advocates of democracy, even among some of the "founding fathers" still felt that the right to vote should be limited to those who were "smart" enough to handle that right.

Sadly, this was part of the logic that for many years prevented African Americans and women from voting.

Still, there's something seductively appealing about the reasoning: Do we really want Beavis and Butthead making decisions for the nation? Do we really want to empower the dope who can't bother to get himself off the couch to vote? There's an implicit elitism here that goes something like this: "if 50% of the country is not voting, maybe it's better that way. There are an elite group of people with the intelligence and wisdom to run the country and those are the ones that should be voting. The gullible masses are probably best serving our country's interests by staying at home."

Voter apathy is a problem in this country, I think, and part of the problem is not necesarrily that only the elites in our country are voting, but more that our electoral process is coming to be dominated by the highly motivated. Those with more polarized views are highly motivated to get out there with other like minded folks and vote. Those with a stake in special interests, those who have perhaps a more radical agenda for the country than the "average" American. It seems that perhaps these are the ones motivated to vote. Maybe it might be beneficial to have more of the so-called "apathetic" voting. Maybe politicians would have less incentive to cater to the radical wings of their parties if the "apathetic" in the middle had more clout.

Actually, I've gone back through the editiorial a couple of times composing this post and the more I read it, the more it bothers me. I'll just address one more issue for now:

The article says "My own view is that voting should be more difficult because things of value usually require a little work." I think this misstates the "value" in voting. Voting isn't valuable because it's hard to do. It's valuable because it gives everyone an opportunity to say something about the way their nation is run. The responsiblity in voting comes in making the effort to make informed decisions, and the "risk" we run as a democracy is that many voters will not take that time. It's this very risk that has led many people in the past to oppose democracy. So, yes there is a risk with the average schmuck getting his grubby paws on a ballot, but I think there is a much greater risk that if voting is made more difficult (as this editorialist is implying we should) that only those highly motivated (not necessarily those who've "thought" the most about the issues) by extremism will make the effort to get to the polls.
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Old 07-27-2006, 08:39 PM   #10
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Ugh. His tone reminds me of a former neighbor who used to work himself into a froth ranting about the "white trash" who had moved into the neighborhood and how they were going to bring down all our property values, etc. etc. Since he's purportedly so fond of going to 7-Eleven to taunt his less worthy fellow Americans (what was that bit about not taking citizenship seriously?) with their own ignorance about the Really Big Bottomline Issues, perhaps he should also try asking them if they in fact vote, and why or why not. Might learn something.

I don't really see why it would hurt things to have a lottery to encourage more people to vote. To echo maycocksean, this isn't going to "cheapen" the voting process--what "cheapens" voting is when people don't take the responsibility to inform themselves seriously, which includes thinking beyond their own personal top priorities. If Osterloh's idea passed, and did lead to significant increases in voter turnout, it would most likely in the long term also increase the number of constituencies whose interests politicians felt beholden to take seriously, which would most likely be a good thing. It's all too easy for both parties (as in politicians and constituents) to give up on even bothering otherwise.
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Old 07-27-2006, 09:38 PM   #11
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I think it can cheapen the voting process if that portion of civic responsibility or personal responsibility/interest in community is replaced or accentuated by the chance for easy money. Not a serious cheapening, but one so none the less.

Frankly, I think many don't vote because they see no material difference in their daily lives based on the outcome. On a macro level, I think there is a lot of truth to that idea.

Obviously, this is not true for some individuals, and is not true for specific issues. On the aggregate, however, we tend to like our system because we (as a nation) don't wake up with any tangible fear based on the outcome of an election.
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Old 07-27-2006, 09:46 PM   #12
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Well, the state lotteries are sometimes tied to funds for education right? Is that a way to get people to support public education or is it a way to get people to play the lottery?

I agree that the idea of offering a possible monetary payoff for voting seems cheap on the face of it, but the tone of the article and it's implications were distrubing.
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Old 07-27-2006, 11:15 PM   #13
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Quote:
...even though online voting assumes that we desperately need to hear from people who otherwise couldn't be bothered to get off the couch.


The US seems to have an idea of worth with votes, anyway. It's repulsive and undemocratic.

I've said it before so wont say it again, but there is only one sure-fire way to get an accurate (or close as possible) idea of who the people want to lead their country. Until then, you'll continue to have these debates and stupid ideas like a lottery to lull in the trailer dwellers.
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Old 07-27-2006, 11:33 PM   #14
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What is the US problem with compulsory voting? In Australia it is compulsory to turn up on election day, or at least complete an absentee vote if you can't be there for whatever reason. Course, once you get the paper in your hot little hand you can do with it what you will. But at least you are exercising your democratic right!!!!!

It ain't that difficult!
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Old 07-27-2006, 11:41 PM   #15
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BEG, you're going to get publically hanged now Every time I bring this up, the people riot. The US prefers to have only educated and middle class voters regardless of party. Forcing every Tom Dick and Harry will ensure you get 50% -odd of votes from those with no opinion or who have been forced to vote. Seems the US doesn't want that. Besides, it's constitutional or something to have a choice to participate in the democratic process.
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