Instead of worrying that an adult without an ID will be barred from voting, let’s worry about the fact that this is an adult who can’t legally drive, buy a car, rent a car, rent an apartment, buy a house, get on an airplane, get married, purchase a gun, purchase alcohol, purchase cigarettes, pick up a prescription, purchase cough medicine at the supermarket, apply for a job, apply for food stamps, open a bank account, purchase automobile insurance, or do any number of other things that most adults do on a daily basis.
If we’re going to start cutting back on ID requirements, let’s first stop asking the potbellied, balding, bearded fellow to show his license for a pack of Coors, before we worry about relieving the burden from the Latino guy with a thick accent who has to so unjustly prove he’s a legal citizen before participating in our elections.
But that’s not to say that I support voter ID because I’m worried about voter fraud. I mean, I am worried about voter fraud, but that isn’t the primary reason I stand in favor. I’m in favor of voter ID because it takes a small, insignificant measure of effort to obtain an ID, and I believe that voting should probably involve a small, insignificant measure of effort.
In fact, if I had my way, you’d need to produce much more than a license to vote. You’d have to pass an elementary level civics test and then identify by name, at the very least, the Secretary of State, the Vice President, and the Speaker of the House. Next you’d be quizzed on a few current events. Finally, all votes would be cast in essay form. You’d be asked for your choice, and then 6 sentences explaining why you made that choice. There would be no wrong answer, as long as you have an answer. People who cannot even articulate the reasoning behind their vote don’t deserve to vote in the first place.
I imagine these easy tests would disqualify about half of the people who show up on election day, sending our voter turnout numbers plummeting into the basement. And that, my friends, would be a wonderful day in the Republic.
See, we worry about “voter fraud,” when “voter ignorance” and “voter apathy” and “voter just showed up to get an ‘I voted’ sticker” are much greater threats to the integrity of our democratic process.
The system isn’t rigged. It doesn’t have to be. The Powers That Be know that, you, the Rare Informed Voter, are a disastrous threat to their dominion over us. They WOULD rig the voting system if Informed Voters were the only ones turning out. But that isn’t the case. Instead, they drown your vote in a sea of obliviousness by towing in truckloads of nincompoops, who pour into the polling places and proudly push random buttons, rendering your thoughtful, knowledge-based votes moot.
We act as though voting is this Mystical Rite in which we all must partake; the health of our nation rests on our ability to shovel as many warm bodies into the voting booth as possible. The reality, of course, is the exact opposite. Voting is a tool, not a sacrament. We use it to select the people who will pass laws and make important decisions. There’s nothing inherently virtuous about taking part in that task just for the sake of it. Take part if you have something useful and constructive to contribute. Otherwise, stay home, for the good of the nation.
Voting is also not an insoluble constitutional right. The constitution guarantees, as well it should, that you can’t be denied the vote based on race or gender, but it never says anything about being denied based on lack of effort or understanding. After all, many states disqualify people from voting, or restrict their voting rights, for other reasons. Notably, in many places ex-cons are either permanently barred, or temporarily prohibited, from voting.
Maybe, in a sane society, we’d stop indiscriminately eliminating the voting rights of felons, and start discriminately eliminating the voting rights of fools.
But these are pipe dreams, I realize.
Our politicians would never go for a plan like this.
They have a vested interest in encouraging people who don’t understand the process to participate in the process. Ignorance is the most trusty tool of their trade.
Pretty soon, I imagine, you won’t even have to leave your house to vote. It will be so easy and accessible, you can simply walk outside and shout a name into the heavens. An NSA satellite will detect and tabulate your selection. But maybe even that’s too much to ask of our fellow citizens. Perhaps, one day, we can shuffle to the window in our pajamas and let out an unintelligible grunt, and the NSA satellites will interpret our mutterings for us.
It will be perfect. One hundred percent voter participation. Zero percent voter comprehension or effort.
And the best part is that nobody will have to show an ID.
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