The Uneducated Voter

So, I voted yesterday.  I was surprised there was a long line at the early voting site on my campus.  But, it was good to see that many people voting.  What was really disheartening was something that happened while we were waiting in line.

I thought it was rather considerate of the workers there to have copies of the ballot measures available for us to read while we were waiting in line.  Since I try to be an educated voter, I had already read these measures on Knox County's website.  They were mostly just boring county charter amendments.  However, at the same time it was a discouraging thought that so many people who came to vote probably didn't even know that these ballot measures existed prior to standing in line.  I would not be surprised to learn that some of the people there voting thought that they would only be voting for POTUS and no other office.  However, something far more disheartening happened.

There were two girls in front of me in line.  They glanced at the paper for a while and then said "This is too hard to understand.  I'm just going to put 'no' on all of them."  My little democratic (not the political party, the ideology) heart almost died at that statement.  Maybe people don't realize that you don't actually have to put a vote on every question.  You can vote "Yes", "No", or simply not vote at all.  And if you have no idea what the question is asking, I think you have a moral obligation to abstain from voting.  Also, I find it disgusting that they put such little effort into understanding the issues they're voting on and that they acted so ditzy about it.  We as a society promote ditziness in young people (mostly girls, but in boys too).  And I don't mind people acting ditzy, but I do mind when it concerns elections.

As I was standing there, staggering under the shear disgust and shock of what had just happened, I just thought "How often does this happen?"  For example, I imagined the vote on Prop 8 in California 4 years ago.  How many people just voted "Yes" on it, not knowing what it meant or what they were voting for.  They just thought that they should just vote "yes" on everything that they didn't understand.  And this election there are (I believe) four states which have a ballot measure concerning gay marriage--some to ban it and some to legalize it.  What if there are people just like the girls in front of me who just vote "no" on everything they see that they don't even try to understand?  This is a serious issue for me.  This is a serious issue for millions of gay Americans.  We should not have our fate decided by some ditzy voters who don't bother to take the time to educate themselves.

This is one main reason why I think the republic that we have set up is far better than a democracy.  I cringe to think what our country would be like if the public were allowed to vote on every bill that was ever proposed.  If the girls in front of me couldn't even understand one-paragraph amendments to the county charter, I'd hate to think how confused they'd be actually reading even one page of the bills that Congress votes on.

Personally, I think we should have a quiz and only count the votes of the people who pass the quiz.  People who don't even take the time to learn about what they're voting for should not have the right to vote.  Their uninformed decisions should not be made to affect the entire populace.  If you don't care enough about the democratic process to learn what you're voting for before you vote on it, then you should not be allowed to vote.  Ask questions such as "What is Referendum 74?" and if the voter answers correctly, count their vote.  If they vote incorrectly, ignore the vote.

Maybe a quiz isn't the best solution, but I do think that we should address this issue.  I don't think it's fair to make the entire population suffer from the laziness of people who vote without being informed.