by Robert Wilkinson
Though it didn't start out that way, this was somewhat of a tribute to Molly Ivins' style, originally published on my political blog back in 2004. I was thinking of how we could increase voter turnout in America so that the percentage of our voting public is at least on a par with Burkino Faso or Bolivia, and to that end let my ex-pat Texan imagination run wild for a few lines that may make you think, or even smile. Enjoy!
Election Reform - Get out the vote, win the lottery (and have a beer while you're at it!) Part 1
by laughingcat, Fri, 10/22/2004 - 12:18pm.
While perusing the Mar-Apr 2004 issue of Utne Reader, I found an interesting article by Jay Walljasper on some ways to increase voter turnout and therefore improve the actual practice of our democracy in action. Some suggestions were funny, such as holding keg parties near polling places.
I figured that would be a great way to increase turnout by bikers and frat boys, as well as the followers of the Church of Sunday Football, as long as another suggestion, that of moving election day to Sunday, was not adopted. I've seen good old boys in Texas so loaded by noon that I'm not sure we'd want them in a car going to vote. And standing on line with them waiting to vote would be a painful experience in random conversation.
The one that really caught my eye seemed like the obvious winner. At first, making your "I voted" sticker an entry into the El Gordo National Lottery seemed like a funny idea, but then again, every elementary school teacher I've ever known has offered goodies to the class to get them to do things. Sometimes it even works for the boyz behind the razor wire, but only if you're asking them to do something they want to do to begin with.
I'm sure that the prospect of winning "thirteen cool big ones" would entice enough people to vote that it would result in a win-win situation, and at least thirteen people would be happy with the outcome, regardless of who won the election. This could become an annual commemoration to the initiative of our entrepreneurial Founding Fathers.
I'm certainly into all of us having an equal chance at a "baker's dozen" of $13 million each, thus demonstrating our sense of fair play and unifying our national commitment. So I definitely vote to roll 'em Voterball, 'cause we the people can always use a morale boost! At least some of us would get to feel as prosperous as the media every 4 years.
In these and other suggestions, such as tax breaks for the working poor who vote (The writer says the 16th Amendment would figure into that one. Read the issue to see them all), I saw two more I liked that seemed simple and would produce greater voter turnout. We'll get to them tomorrow.
Election Reform - Get out the vote, win the lottery (and have a beer while you're at it!) - Part 2
by laughingcat, Sat, 10/23/2004 - 9:00am.
As I mentioned yesterday, in the Mar-Apr 2004 issue of Utne Reader I found an interesting article by Jay Walljasper on ways to increase voter turnout. Keg parties near polling places seemed a bit far out, as did the idea of making your "I voted" sticker an entry into a national lottery. Of course either of these suggestions would definitely increase voter turnout, and give most of us a rooting interest regardless of which party actually "wins" the right to bill us for an outrageous number of perks.
In the interests of public prosperity, better morale, and the American ideal of getting rich quick, I think a national "Voterball" lottery is a very good thing. That being said....
I've always been of two minds about the entire business of increasing voter turnout. I've had reservations about getting more turnout from the uninformed, since they tend to do things like vote in some strange laws, especially on the State level. I learned this in both Texas and California, probably the only time you will see these two states similarly compared in the same sentence. Ask anyone you know, and usually you'll draw a blank stare if you tell them voters in Texas and California share anything in common. Welcome to rugged forms of reactive populism.
That being said, I do believe that if more people voted, we'd get more diversity in our candidates. I base this on the old maxim, "you can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time." So I suppose if more people voted, there would be at least a few able to see whether the Emperor has clothes, or whether the Emperor's men were stealing the clothes from the people while insisting it wasn't happening, or explaining why it had to happen for their own good.
I am of the opinion that the only way we can fix this rigged system is to open it up a little, remembering who brought us to this dance to begin with and the Constitutional document they left us with. These suggestions could be easily adopted and would increase voter turnout, a necessary component to restoring true democracy and "citizen government," as envisioned by our metaphysical Founding Fathers. At the very least I'm sure the government would at least be representative of a majority of our people rather than the present minority.
The other two are very simple: 1) Make Election Day a Sunday, or national holiday. 2) Assess a fine for people who don't vote.
We have national holidays for every other thing, why not something as important as voting? Sundays might be a bit difficult for the churches being paid to be polling places, but it seems like churches already get tax breaks, so the extra subsidy probably won't really be missed. On Sundays we could use the usual schools, as well as town halls. Lots of parking and people could see where their business isn't being done. And in the spirit of John Ashcroft and J. Edgar Crossdresser, we could even have voters pass a breathalizer test or they'd have to go home and sober up before casting their vote.
As for making those who don't vote pay a small fine. The writer calls it an "apathy tax," and states that in Australia it has resulted in a 95% voter turnout. The benefit to this is that it could fund the lottery above. That way you're either in the pool, or out of the pool. A five or ten buck fine for not participating in the national "we're going to vote today" game could easily fund Voterball and leave change left over to help our voting system become a little less chaotic. Why, if we held elections on Sunday, we could even fine the drunks who show up to vote. That would yield even more money to fund the lottery. Call it the beer companies' contribution to national unity.
These suggestions would dramatically increase voter turnout, thus offering results more indicative of the true American public's atmosphere. It would certainly blow open the ridiculous "Imperial Neocon Party versus the "Herding Cats" Party political lock that threatens the very existence of our nation and our world. Now if we could only do something about the State Lege and the lobbyists...
(Thanks for the memories and laughs, Molly. RIP, woman of powerful wit. May your columns inspire a generation of humorists.)
Love, Robert the Laughingcat